A.N. Soooooo...I totally had this entire chapter just sitting on my hard drive for over a year. Completely finished. Just sitting there. For over a year. Probably like what, going on 19 months now. *Derp*
That's all I'm gonna say, cuz college and stuff...
LOL I LOVE YOU *^*
Shadow of Rain
The scent of warm sake was thick in the air surrounding the man. Gulping down another shot, he looked around the joint with a delirious leer, and upon finding the object of his desire, quickly tried to stand up. Giggling stupidly to himself, he stumbled over to the poker table where the blonde woman was seated.
"Fucking hell - you cheated!" she suddenly raged; her hand pointing to the man opposite her at the table.
Jiraiya paused in his stumbling to observe the scene.
"Now now, Tsunade. We all knew that it would get a bit tense in here due to the game, so why don't you be a good sport and loosen up a bit, eh?" the gambler stated with a lopsided grin - evidence enough of his intoxicated state.
The blonde woman paused, a defeated look marring her youthful face, and then finally sighed in defeat while quickly downing some sake.
Jiraiya had to rub his eyes and do a double take as his former teammate then divested herself of her green robe; leaving her chest open to the world, save for a thin, grey, kimono-style tank to keep her modesty. A lecherous blush soon overtook the white-haired man's face as he recognized the "game."
"Ah, strip-poker. What luck that she would be playing such a thing tonight!"
However, as he tried to walk/stumble a bit closer, the man's path was blocked by a brunette holding her hand out to his chest; a severe expression adorning her pretty face.
Oh, hello my darling. I guess you'll do to keep me distracted until Tsunade loses some more clothes.
"Jiraiya-sama, I need to speak with you right away!" the kunoichi stated nervously.
It took the man awhile to focus his eyes on the familiar features of the girl and to take in her medical outfit as well.
"Oh, Rin-chan...why I had no idea you were into older men." the sannin stated shamelessly. "Much, much older; but if experience is what you're after-"
Blushing, the brunette angrily stomped on one of his sandal-clad feet; causing the sannin to yell and clutch at the aching appendage.
Jiraiya wasn't one to give up without a fight, and so he was about to resort to cruder ways of seducing the kunoichi, when her next sentence caused all thoughts of sex and booze to flee from his mind.
"It's about Minato…"
Anxiousness coursing in his veins, Minato went to answer the doorbell with as good a mask that he could muster. However, he carefully resisted the urge to sigh as he was greeted by an ANBU messenger instead of his sensei. The kage couldn't stop the wave of disappointment that rolled through him though.
"Good evening Hokage-sama. I apologize for disturbing you at this late hour, but we just received an urgent request from the Daimyo."
The blonde adjusted his posture into a more commanding one as the Owl masked ninja continued.
"He says he needs all our mission documents from the past six months to chart our progress for the year and to plan out next year's financing."
Minato simply nodded with a smile. "He couldn't let it wait another week, huh? We're supposed to get another wave of Chunin coming through with a whole new set of reports."
Weaving a hand through his messy bangs, the hokage took hold of the large stack of documents the ANBU was holding out and nodded to him in understanding. "Have a wave of falcons ready for me tomorrow. I'll get these to him first thing in the morning."
"Yes sir!" A respectful salute was given, and the ninja was gone in a swirl of leaves.
After closing the door, Minato briefly went over the papers to get a gist of what their contents contained and resigned himself to another late night doing paperwork. The blonde quickly made himself a cup of coffee and headed back upstairs to work in his study.
Well, Rin did say the hospital has been busy as of late. he consoled himself, while a stern gaze settled over his features. Maybe she just got held up by something important.
Minato released a much needed groan as he sank down into the chair in his office and spread the papers out on his desk. Surprisingly, with the coffee by his side and his mind welcome to the distraction of hokage-duties, the minutes flew by as he read, wrote, signed and repeated the process for each document. As he was counting each finished report, he felt a growing sense of pride in his village at the fact that their rate of mission completions had risen significantly within the last couple of years.
Konoha had been leading the continental shinobi economy now for well over a decade - beating even the prosperous Hidden Cloud in Kumo.
After he had lost himself for awhile in the rhythm of concentration, Minato chanced a glance at the clock on his desk. The blonde's heart sank as he noticed another hour had gone by.
The hell? What's taking them so long? his inner-self chirruped.
No doorbell had rung. As a matter of fact, not a sound had gone off within the house - save for subtle sounds in Ame's room, indicating that the child would occasionally have a coughing fit or shift in his bed.
Hearing the boy turn once more, Minato soon lost his precious distraction and thought back to why he so desperately needed his sensei.
Ame…..dammit all to hell! Ame...Ame is Naruto. I just know it!
Ame is Naruto…
The mantra now repeated itself in his mind and he was helpless to stop it. Leaning his elbows on the hard wood of the desk, Minato rubbed at his eyes and let them cover his face as he tried to control his anxiety attack. Swirling emotions were bubbling up within him and his throat constricted at the implications of it all.
"God damn it." he eventually seethed. "Jiraiya, I'll just find you myself - stubborn old man."
Sitting up, Minato noticed how stiff his muscles felt and he had to stretch a couple times to relieve the pain.
And that's what I get for working so long without a break...fuck everything…..
He allowed himself these thoughts to distract him. Yes, distractions were good. Anger and frustration were good. Anything else might remind him of the boy in the other room. The boy who looked so painfully reminiscent of himself and his late wife.
The boy who, if his suspicions proved correct, he had allowed to get stolen by a despicable and hedonistic child abuser.
No….no, no. I can't go waltzing after Jiraiya now. I won't leave Ame alone here - regardless of my guards. What if he wakes up and decides to run off again?
He stood still for a couple of seconds as his mind warred silently with itself; hair a wild mess after having gone through it with his hands so many times due to stress.
I'll just wait on the porch. That's not too much, is it?
Twitching is fingers out of training reflex, Minato glanced back at the paperwork and proudly saw how he only had three more documents to finish.
"Good. With that out of the way, I can focus on….focus on..."
He paused momentarily as new thoughts swirled in his head. He began to pace back and forth as the anxiety attack began crippling him in bi-polar waves.
What if…..what if Ame really isn't Naruto….and the..the seal isn't there? Will I be able to treat him the same, or…will I always see him as just a shadow of my son? No! He HAS to be. The number of coincidences are too great. Jiraiya...goddamn it!
Storming out of the office, Minato made his way downstairs and was actually quite fumbled when the doorbell rang right as his hand was about to touch the knob.
Minato opened the door, heart catching in his throat, to the relieved sight of Rin, with Jiraiya not too far behind her on the porch. He silently sent a prayer to the karma gods for their good timing. His panic had all but vanished as he scrambled to adopt a civil air about him.
The blonde smiled at his old sensei as he beheld one of the grumpiest looks he had ever seen. As if sensing his gaze, the sannin suddenly locked eyes with him and glared.
"I swear lad, if it was anyone else calling me at this hour, I would just say screw 'em. Tsunade was playing strip poker, for god's s-sakess!" he slurred.
Minato marveled as a strong sensation to hug his sensei went through him, yet he needed to keep his composure here. Especially if he's intoxicated... The blonde thought as he caught a whiff of sake, which practically emanated from the white haired man.
Now that he could see his sensei in the flesh though, doubts and worries began to gnaw at him once more - no matter how strong his outward mask was.
How will I convince the old fool? He didn't approve my thoughts of Ame the last time I was with him. And I don't need a drunken idiot helping me figure all this out...
Rin gave him a sympathetic glance as she pushed the sannin away from her.
"I don't think he's totally gone, Minato-sensei. The oaf has enough brain power to *hit on every woman we passed by on the way here*!" she half-yelled while glaring at the sannin, who had shamelessly groped her as he stumbled towards Minato.
Giving the man a disapproving once over, Minato sighed and led Jiraiya inside, where he deposited his sensei's form onto the couch. Turning back towards Rin, he noticed how she was still on the porch, but was taken aback by her nervous expression.
Ame better not be really sick. That's the last thing I need. he thought, as a fresh wave of unease rushed through him.
Sensing his gaze, Rin caught his eyes for a second, then quickly darted them away.
Frowning at her odd behavior, Minato approached her while leaving Jiraiya to sober up on the couch. He observed curiously how his former student composed herself better as he joined her outside.
"Sorry you had to wait so long sensei, but it took a great deal of convincing to get Jiraiya-sama to come with me. Then, we had to take the long way back because the hell he could walk on his own in his drunken state." she muttered darkly.
Rin then took out some papers that had been neatly folded into her pack and handed them to him, all while avoiding his gaze.
"Here. It's a copy of Ame's blood work, and there's some bad news I'm afraid."
The hokage's heart practically beat out of his chest. He began to rapidly read the medical papers for any sign of something worrisome - like cancer or ebola.
"His pneumonia is viral," Rin revealed while ignoring him. "which means we can't treat it with antibiotics. His body will just have to let the virus run it's course, which could take anywhere from a couple weeks to a month."
Rin stopped talking as she searched around in her pack while Minato was still busy reading - heart calming down slightly after his *sort-of* heart attack.
"If some of his symptoms get really bad, you can treat those individually; like with cough medicine or fever reducers. Ah, here they are!" she smiled while pulling out some small containers. "I brought some multivitamins and dietary supplements for him which you need to start giving him on a daily basis!"
He was listening to her, but as he finished skimming over the last page, the blonde was puzzled in that it didn't say anything abnormal, other than the pneumonia results. Narrowing his eyes, Minato returned to look at Rin.
She's hiding something… he thought suspiciously as he become more aware of her nervous gestures. The way her legs kept shuffling, or the shaking in her hands as she handed him the pill bottles with fingers that couldn't keep steady. I've already come to terms with the severity of Ame's pneumonia...so I'm sure that's not what's setting her on edge. And normally Rin is always extremely still due to the demands that come with being a medical shinobi. For her to be this agitated about something...
"Now then. I shall take me leave." Rin ended suddenly, which brought the hokage out of his current musings.
"What, you only just arrived! Isn't there anything else I need to know?" His tone was slightly needy, which he anxiously noticed only made his student avoid his gaze even further.
"The hospital is really busy and I'm sure you would like to have some privacy with Jiraiya. All you need to know is in that report, including the dosage schedule. Two pills a day - to be taken with a meal. Make sure you don't forget!"
"Rin... about the blood results. Did he have any abnormalities? I'm concerned about things he might had been exposed t-"
The kunoichi simply waved her hand at him in a hurried rush. "No, no...he had some curious chakra anomalies, which I already ran through the system, but nothing too serious. Now I really need to go."
Strangely, Rin looked past him suddenly and locked eyes with Jiraiya. Turning to follow her gaze, Minato noted how the sannin was still bent over the couch, but the man met her gaze with a serious expression and nodded; causing all sorts of hell inside Minato's head.
After their curious exchange, all the blonde got further from the brunette was a bow, before she took off once more in the direction of the village.
Her whole stay hadn't even lasted five minutes.
"That was...odd." he spoke quietly to himself. Anxiety didn't even begin to describe the feelings coursing through him and his body felt numb as he closed the door and went back to join Jiraiya.
"Minato, you wouldn't believe it. By the time I left, Tsunade was in n-nothing but a very loose bra! I-*hic*-tried to ask Rin to stay a little longer, but she insisted. What's on your mind that's causing such a fuss?"
A drunken smile was plastered on his sensei, and Minato couldn't help but rub a hand over his face in exasperation.
"Before I do anything with you, I would like to be able to have a normal conversation." the blonde sulked while heading to the sink.
A cold glass of water was quickly prepared and Minato literally forced the drink into his sensei's hands; hoping that it would help to flush a little of the alcohol out of his system. Then, as he carefully monitored that the sannin was actually drinking it, the blonde plopped down into the space beside him.
Minato peripherally noticed how he was being treated to the strangest leer.
"Eh, eh, Mina-chan, I don't mind you calling me over, ya know. When's the last t-time we hung out together anyway? You never spend time with me anymoooore~." he singsonged, humming the word into his drink as he took another ginger sip.
"Well, one of us had to grow up eventually."
"Oooh, that hurts. I know you miss me though. Remember when I spiked your drink with that Suna aphrodisiac? Remember!? You sure t-thanked me later for that as it got you to finally loosen up around Kushina-chan ~ if you get my drift."
The blonde blushed scarlet at the memory.
"Don't remember things like that! Geez…."
A drunken chuckle escaped the older man's lips before he leaned over Minato's frame, looped an arm across the blonde's shoulders, and dragged him haphazardly against his chest in an awkward bear-hug.
"I love you...you know." Jiraiya mumbled quite soberly into his hair.
The action left Minato a bit flabbergasted as he struggled to push the man off, but when his half-assed resists were met in vain, all he could really do was laugh at his sensei's antics.
"I love you too, but I don't swing that way." The blonde grinned as a light smack was delivered to his head.
"Don't make fun...I mean it. *hic* I don't think I've ever said it aloud before. I never really wanted to settle down with a family of my own, but you wormed your way into my heart like a son. I was so scared that I would never get the chance to say this...not after - *hic*."
Minato frowned at the topic, which made his heart warm, but nonetheless he allowed the man to hug him while he thought of an appropriate response. His sensei had never talked to him about the night of the attack before. And while he knew and reciprocated the paternal affections they often shared, the blonde got the feeling that there was a little guilt hidden behind that perverted face, which was inconceivable to him. The only one at fault was himself, for not being able to plan out all the possible outcomes of that fateful night.
The sannin's hug, despite being a bit awkward, consoled the blonde more than he thought reasonable.
"You never had to say it Ji - I always knew. Besides, it's not like you can predict those sort of catastrophes…"
Jiraiya gradually lost the smile on his face and set the glass down. Sighing, he released his hold on the blonde and turned to look at him with a serious expression.
"Kay...I think I'm up for whatever it is you need to discuss. I still wish I could have seen the rest of Tsunade's game play out though." he mumbled sadly.
It was interesting, Minato noted. The man had gone from piss-drunk a couple seconds ago to being able to form coherent sentences; despite the occasional hiccup. He returned to his original position and eyed the sannin suspiciously; wondering if he was even drunk at all - despite the saturated scent of sake on his clothes.
I wouldn't doubt it if it's all been a ploy. Sensei's a damn good actor. Has to be, in order to pick up all those women...and his tolerance level is astonishing. He recalled with a slight shudder, remembering an incident from his youth when the man beat an entire bar full of enemy shinobi at a drinking game.
"Um," his blue eyes then shifted from the staircase and back to his sensei; recalling his sudden nervousness from before. "Right, well I hope your head is clear enough to help me with something."
His breathing started to increase as he carefully formulated sentences in his head. Minato needed his sensei to understand this...this...primeval feeling surging through him. Despite attempts to try and convince himself Ame was just an ordinary five year old with no ties to himself, the blonde couldn't shake the instinct deep down that struggled to break free.
"You, uh….you remember the little boy I found around a month ago? The one who had all the scars?" His nervousness only increased as he saw how the white haired man simply nodded towards him, with a face set in stone. "Well, I'm not sure if you've heard from anyone by now, seeing how it's been a couple days, but I discovered him again the other day, just wandering the streets, and decided to take him in."
Minato waited patiently to see if his sensei would call him out for his brash thinking. He expected to hear 'Stupid move' or 'You're acting too fast' or some other sort of reprimand. However, he was surprised to see how the sannin just smiled at him to continue.
The hell? He's usually so blunt with me on issues like this. he thought, a bit baffled.
"Anyway, being in such close proximity to him on a day-to day basis, I've begun to grow certain suspicions, which I already know you might disapprove of, but hear me out, ok?"
Minato knew in the back of his head that with his status as hokage came the authority to simply say, 'He's my son and I know it...so that's that.' And nobody would be able to bat an eyelash. But due to his close relationship with Jiraiya, he really wanted the sannin's advice on how best to go about the situation, as well as secretly yearning for his approval on the subject.
To hell if I would ever admit that though. He would never let me live it down. He thought with a smile.
"To start off, I began to poke into Ame's history a little, and that's a whole other story which I'll save for later, but in gist...Jiraiya, I found out that he was taken as a newborn off the streets. Taken five years ago on October 10th, to be exact." He made sure to put emphasis on the date to make his point.
"And?" Jiraiya supplied softly, to the blonde's surprise. "What else do you think stands out?"
Minato's mouth set into a grim line. It's like he doesn't even care where this is going….
"Well, his features are what stand out to me the most. Blonde isn't a very common hair color around here; especially blonde with spikes." He concluded with an affirmative nod in his head.
Speaking of which.
"The shade of blonde perfectly matches my own. His skin tone also matches mine and then there's his eyes…" A strained sigh escaped him as his voice began to shake a bit. The thoughts were all coming together now and it was beginning to scare him how obvious it all was.
"The color of his eyes is richer than mine, but their shape perfectly mimics Kushina's. Then, earlier today while I was carrying him home over the rooftops, he brushed his chakra lightly against mine and there was just this great *rush* of emotions that I felt; as if I could see directly into his thoughts for a second."
He ended in a gush as he once again felt tears begin to prick at his eyes. Minato forced them down though, as this was not the right moment for him to fall apart.
Not yet, anyway.
The blonde tried to relax the muscles in his shoulders a bit as he squared his jaw and looked Jiraiya in the face. The sannin looked right back at him with an unreadable expression. Anger suddenly and inexplicably reared it's ugly head in the blonde's mind.
The hell with what he thinks. I know I'm right. I have to be right….there are too many links pointing to the fact.
"I know you don't want me to get attached as it might make me biased towards the kid, and while I appreciate the thought, I have every right to try and adopt a child and move on with my life; disregarding any theories about Naruto for the moment."
"Minato…" Jiraiya began, but the blonde wasn't done. He began to grow restless as emotions simply overflowed from his heart and he allowed them to come; grateful for the rush of clarity that they brought.
"Wait, ok? I've gone over my own feelings enough in my head, and I don't think it's too rushed. Ame simply feels like he belongs with me…there's no other way to describe it. He needs me Ji, and I...I need him. You don't know what kind of environment that he's been living in his whole life. I can't..."
"No! You'll listen to me now! Whatever it is you think I can't handle, that's gone. Yes, it may have hurt like hell when I saw my colleagues offspring after the attack, and I still feel pangs in my heart whenever I see a kid's his age, but that doesn't mean I wasn't able to heal at all. I can feel it Jiraiya. And I know you don't want me to get hurt again, but Ame's chakra resonance, his age, all of it. You can't und-"
The sannin leaned over and simply shook the blonde to bring him back from his ravings; cutting off whatever he was about to say.
"He is your son."
Minato blinked once; his train of thought had derailed and crashed. He locked eyes with his sensei then; emotions flying across his face far too fast to catch. As the words echoed endlessly inside the blonde's mind, all he could do was stare as a long silence suddenly descended upon the room.
"W-what?" Minato eventually breathed out; blue-eyes flickering with hurt and disbelief. "You knew?"
Jiraiya shook his head minutely at him. "I only just found out."
The man then leaned back down; releasing his shoulders and continued; his tone extremely soft. "Rin came to me in a rush at the bar, and explained your situation briefly. When she got to the part about Ame's blood work, she said she found trace amounts of an unidentifiable chakra source. So, understandably worried, Rin ran it through the Medical center's database to check for the source." The sannin's dark eyes clouded with pain as he sighed and put a comforting hand on his student.
"Minato...the results automatically test for any living DNA matches that Konoha has records of. It's just the way the protocol works, so Rin didn't think anything of it. That is...until Ame's file returned a single name that matched: yours."
The blonde heard him, but it felt like cotton had been shoved in his ears as the blood drained from his face. He wanted to respond, but numbly found that his mouth wouldn't cooperate with his brain at the moment. Out of reflex, he felt his features settle into a stony mask that withheld the current turmoil inside him.
But he could feel the fractures coming.
"And the...the abnormal chakra?" he whispered eventually.
The sannin eyed him worriedly at his blank response. "The huge concentrations she found in his system coupled with the chakra's malicious aura all point to the Kyūbi, no doubt…"
"Then, that means Ame…Ame...is-"
"Ame is Naruto." The man finished, quietly. A small smile dancing on his lips. "He's Naruto."
Minato let out a pained, half-laugh at that. The kind of laugh that came with too many feelings to know what to do with, and not enough of himself to contain it all. He felt...he felt…
Somewhere along the way, he felt warm tears falling on his hands and a hot tremble shuddered through him; his eyes liquid, breathing desperate as his face lost the mask he had been so desperately holding onto.
"S-sensei…" the blonde managed to choke out, emotions nearly washing him away with their intensity. "I can't...I…"
And Jiraiya leaned forward once more and embraced the blonde; anchoring him to reality. "I know kid. I know it's hard. Just breathe."
Minato curled slightly into his teacher but still continued to try and force the tears away.
What was wrong with him? How many times had he gone over this same idea in his head? This same incredible, wonderful possibility. Yet tears flowed freely from his eyes despite his efforts and his breathing turned into hyperventilated gasps as he thought of the child sleeping soundly upstairs.
His child. His boy.
"Breathe," Jiraiya told him, chanted at him, asked of him. "Breathe. It'll all be alright now."
Retreating into the safety of his mind, the blonde thought of all the possibilities that could have happened. Why hadn't his ANBU found Naruto that night? How did he even survive the tower's collapse? His son. His beautiful boy, with eyes of shimmering blue and hair the warmth of sunshine. He thought of Ame's brilliant smile. And his laugh; a sing-song laugh that warmed his heart whenever he heard it.
And his olive skin; a golden tan despite being raised in darkness.
With spindly bones….
Scars on his back…
Fear in his eyes….
"Blight!" A low growl rumbled through the kage as that lone name was enough to cease the flow of emotions.
Minato slowly leaned back and glared at the floor; noticing dully how Jiraiya kept a secure arm on his shoulder for support.
"Him...It was all him….I'll fucking kill him!"
There was a quick stifled inhale that he heard his sensei take as killer intent leaked off his body in deadly waves. He ignored the obvious fear that was emitted from the ANBU nearby.
"Easy kid. Who the hell is Blight?" The sannin muttered curiously; eyes watching his student with slight caution.
Minato's focus was crystal clear now - his tears ceased almost instantly. He could practically see it play out in his mind; the chaos within the village after the attack. The riots. The burning. It would have been so easy to steal, or murder, or carryout anything in that environment really. Even theft of a newborn. He thought with a snarl. He forced himself to return to reality though when he noticed his sensei's growing concern.
"Ame told me all about his past the other day; a past he spent growing up underneath our city." Minato then gave an insane laugh, which caused Jiraiya to become even more perplexed and worried. "So, now I've come to find out that my son has been here all along; right beneath my very feet. Fucking hell…"
"First things first please. I would greatly like to know what the hell is going on in your stupidly intelligent brain at the moment." Jiraiya's tone was humorous, but in the sannin's eyes Minato could see a sliver of fear begin to grow.
"I was actually going to come to you about it the other day, but didn't have time due to my workload. Did any of your contacts ever mention Konoha's "Underground" market?"
Jiraiya drew back a bit; understanding slowly dawning on his face. "You can't be serious? Incidentally, yes there have been a strange number of reports recently, but I never would have thought…" Minato watched a bit pleased as the sannin's eyes grew wide. "Naruto was taken there!?"
Nodding, the blonde then looked away; focusing outside at the swaying of the trees as a fierce wind kicked up outside. He let out a heady sigh and wiped at his drying eyes. "Blight is a slave trader. Ame mentioned that he was the man who stole him all those years ago. I don't know how Ame...er….I mean how Naruto was discovered by such a man amidst the debris, or how they both escaped undetected that night, but what I really want to know is why the hell no one has yet to find out about such a large black market?!"
Jiraiya's face became expressionless as he listened and the blonde probably guessed he had no idea how to respond.
I don't blame him. Fugaku had much the same reaction. Hell...I'm going to love explaining all this to the Sandaime and the council. Minato thought darkly.
"You have a right to be suspicious." the sannin suddenly supplied.
Jiraiya narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. "The reports I've been getting, while more frequent as of late, have been around for years. And since I pass along anything really murky to Intel, there should have been multiple investigations by now - at least. Plus, with the Hyuuga among us, I don't see how they couldn't have detected something amiss underneath the streets. I never thought anything of it though, for much that comes through the rumor pipeline is nothing but pure crap. We get multiple rumors for false leads far too often."
Minato nodded with him and frowned.
Sandaime never mentioned anything like this when I took over his position, so I don't think that he knows much. Regardless….
"I know your mind quite well, Minato. Your thought processes are always scarily accurate. What do you think is going on?"
Jiraiya was looking at him quite respectfully, and with a start, Minato realized he had let his face slip into that steely "Tiger" look, where his eyes would turn ice blue - according to his spineless subordinates at least. Composing himself, he thought back to the conversation he had with Fugaku earlier.
The blond then sighed long and hard. This day had been too...too everything. He didn't need all these drastic conspiracy theories popping up. The last one he had dealt with took a long time to root out and solve peacefully.
Minato then turned to gaze at his sensei. "I have a gut feeling that Danzo is heavily involved. Maybe not with Ame..er...with Naruto's abduction per say...but you never know with that man."
Jiraiya smiled when he messed the boy's name up, but otherwise kept silent and let him continue.
"I'm thinking maybe he and his ROOT members have known all along and continue to keep it a secret for...I don't know...maybe for economic reasons. I know there's always the fact that supply and demand is what's keeping those type of markets open, but we have shady joints on the surface where that take's place. And from Ame's descriptions, this isn't just some meager cave with a couple rogue civilians. Apparently it's quite large and full of nasty criminals, low-life's, what not. And I bet you anything that they're more places like it than just under Konoha too."
"Oh!? How much?"
Minato gave him a warning glare in response. "Don't even. I know because Ame said Blight went to Suna for a "business trip", and I'm guessing he didn't just go to play in the sand."
The sannin merely smiled at him again and chuckled softly. "You're so smart. Has anyone ever told you that? But getting back on subject, you'll have a hell of a time telling all this to Sarutobi-sensei."
Took the words right outta my head….
Minato's line of thought strayed from Danzo though and back to Ame when he heard the child throw another coughing fit upstairs. His heart did a little back-flip as he suddenly remembered the earlier revelation. Emotions, strong and chaotic, once again made his eyes water while treacherous tears threatened to fall; if it weren't for his stony mask.
How in the world will I tell him?
Despite that growing thought, the blonde closed his eyes for a moment and felt a growing sense of happiness begin to surface from within, where before he'd only felt anger and confusion. He allowed a silly smile to grow on his face and was only brought back to Earth when his sensei's deep voice ended the calm silence that had taken over the living room.
"Do you want for us to go up and check the seal?" The white haired man's eyes watched his student closely.
Minato's blue eyes sparkled with energy as they opened and he couldn't help but express his slight nervousness with a poorly stifled cough.
Jiraiya then let out a booming laugh. "Haha! What the hell, kid? You were all relieved a couple minutes ago, then slightly scary, now nervous?"
The blonde pouted at the man's mirthful smirk and got up from the couch.
"I don't….um...Well, I'm not exactly sure how to behave around him now. I mean….what the hell do I say when he wakes up? Hey kid, guess what!? I'm your father and I sealed an unholy demon into you! Wanna see the tattoo to prove it!? Oh, and that also means I'm responsible for allowing Blight to capture and torture you for years...but let's hug!"
Jiraiya snorted and got up to move alongside him as Minato headed for the staircase.
"He's only five, kid. I'm sure the boy will be somewhat confused; maybe happy. Or, he could be all emotional and hate you."
The blonde wilted considerably at that.
"Oh, don't fret so much. You'll have his whole life now to mend whatever has been damaged. Uh, but I don't actually know how he'll respond...kids are always weird and bi-polar, so for all I know he could kiss you and all will be good in the world."
Minato couldn't help the butterflies swirling in his stomach as he carefully opened the door to Ame's room. The child, he observed endearingly, was nuzzled in a concentrated ball near the head of the bed; fast asleep.
"Shh - use whispers! Remember, he has pneumonia. Actually, maybe we should go and let him rest. I'm still debating on whether or not I really want to wake him up for this. I could always wait until morning, after all and-"
"Now, now. Just stop. We both know that if you don't look now, you won't sleep at all tonight. Besides, I think we should all know as soon as possible whether or not Rin's results are true. You can't argue with seeing the proof right in front of your eyes, after all."
A quick, slightly suppressed, moan escaped the blonde's lips as he went to sit down on the mattress near the boy. He slowly smoothed down the bunched up comforter over his back, which caused Ame to let out an unconscious sigh in content. Despite smiling at his response, a frown soon overcame any happy thoughts as the blonde thought of all the possible directions this conversation could go.
"Ji, what if he really will hate me?" The soft, almost unintelligible, question barely registered within the quiet room.
The sannin took a long time to respond as he watched his student continue to smooth the covers over. "I don't doubt there may be strong feelings released soon, but again Minato, please keep in mind he's only five. I promise you, If he does end up resenting you at all, I highly doubt he'll be able to keep those feelings forever."
Minato looked into his face with a heartbroken expression. "You don't know all that's happened to him. The scars, the beatings, drugs even…and only Kami knows what else."
"How do yo-"
"He told me." was the curt reply.
The white haired man took a minute to digest his words and then smiled at him encouragingly. "If the boy has opened up this much to you, then hell, kid, I'm betting that you'll both be ok. Once again, it may be rocky at first, so...I don't know….just be prepared for...anything really."
Nodding nervously, Minato then carefully leaned over the child's small form and shook him gently.
The smaller blonde whimpered softly which caused both adults to still for a moment, and then he slowly yawned and cracked an eye open.
"Hey buddy. I'm sorry to wake you so late, but I need your help with something."
"Mina..?" His voice was angel soft; imbued with sleepiness.
"It's me; don't worry. Lean up a little bit, k?"
The older blonde then helped the younger sit up as the child bundled into his chest; body shivering at escaping his warm nest and coughing quietly inside a closed mouth. Minato registered the vibrations against his ribcage and rubbed at the boy's shoulder to keep him warm.
"Ame, I...um...Well, remember earlier today when you touched your chakra with mine? On the rooftops?" At the boy's subtle nod, the kage continued quietly. "Well, I need you to do that again. I'll have mine activated too so that it's easier for you to sense the feeling, but I want you to try and concentrate it around your stomach. Can you do that for me?"
Ame's small face slowly looked up at his, and he couldn't help the shiver that went up his spine as he gazed into those eyes with new found knowledge.
Minato squeezed his form lightly and held out his right hand; yellow chakra glowing softly on his palm. When he saw Ame's sleepy eyes focus on the energy, he couldn't help but smile as the child eagerly held up his own tiny hand and pressed it against his.
The older blonde didn't know why, since the boy's chakra wasn't flowing yet, but he felt a sharp tug at his heartstrings as he closed his hand around the five year old's - fingers easily covering it whole.
It reminded him of something…something he had forgotten long ago - or forced himself to forget. Pieces of the painful memory began to knit itself slowly in his mind, while he felt a slight tingle of chakra begin to grow from Ame's hand:
*Curling around his newborn in the sealing chamber; with a tiny hand clasped around a single finger. Laying him on the floor in the darkness as his baby cried out softly in the candle light. Never to be heard again…*
Minato had never been more thankful for his many years of hardened, combat experience before as he literally forced the water in his eyes to vanish. He didn't want Ame to see him fall apart now; especially before he had even explained anything to him.
But his thoughts were soon chased away when he felt a familiar surge of emotions as Ame's chakra suddenly rushed into him. Enveloping him. Tasting him. Becoming him.
And he saw, in a flash, through the boy's eyes.
He could feel his emotions.
Sleepiness, he humorously noted, was the dominant feeling, yet deeper there was a warm, childlike happiness at being held against his "savior's" body.
He...he thinks I'm his….
More emotions; flooding him and consuming him.
Fear. And pain. Lots of pain as Minato flinched while dozens of memories suddenly rushed in front of his eyes. There was too much to see and not enough time to absorb them all. But he could still feel the staggering pain as Blight starved the boy for days in one memory. Beat him with sticks, whips, bottles, in another. And Minato couldn't take it as he saw other forms converge on his son's weak form. Various, faceless shinobi and raggedy civilians, and...
His breathing calmed suddenly as he was back in his own body. Minato blinked; too stunned for words, as Ame looked up at him with an equally awed expression.
"Woah…" they both echoed, as Jiraiya peered at them from afar with a raised eyebrow.
"What was that?" breathed the child in an amazed voice.
"What was what?" The sannin voiced; desperately curious as he inched closer.
Minato closed his mouth, as he was sure the open mouthed, "guppy" look was far from glamorous. "It's called chakra resonance, but I never knew it could do that."
"Do what? You two look like you just discovered air."
"I felt things, Mina! You were all…Oh, but could you see mine too?"
"Yeah, I could! Everything moved so fast and it was all…just...so vivid!"
"...You're doing this on purpose. I know it…."
Ame suddenly looked at the white haired man as if just discovering he was there, and suddenly he backed into Minato's form; obviously afraid.
"Hey, it's ok. He's another friend." Minato supplied to try and cheer him up. "Like Rin-chan. Remember?"
Ame looked up at him a bit warily. "So...will he stab me like she did?"
The older blonde laughed; feeling high off his emotions and too tired to care about containing them anymore. He vaguely noticed how Jiraiya seemed a little sour as he pouted off to the side.
He was brought back to focus though when Ame suddenly yawned. The blonde then decided to try and do this whole revelation as fast as possible. He hated himself a little for keeping the kid awake at such a late hour - sick as he was.
"Kay...now back to business." And he lifted his hand again, this time without the use of his chakra, to try and test him.
Ame noticed there wasn't any of the older blonde's chakra being supplied, so when he began to draw on his, Minato watched with slight amazement as the kid drew out enough chakra to power up several high-caliber Jutsus.
His chakra is so...potent.
However, Minato focused his energy, heart pounding in his chest, as he leaned the boy back just a little so that he could lift up his shirt and see, once and for all, if all the drama tonight had been accurately caused.
And then his breathe completely left him as he saw the familiar, black calligraphy of the Eight Trigrams Seal; perfectly centered over the 5 year old's painfully thin abdomen. The seal completely consumed his thoughts as he faintly heard Jiraiya mutter some sort of exclamation beside him. The boy's chakra suddenly flickered a bit, and then left, which was to be expected of a kid so young, and yet, the seal remained for a couple more seconds. The seal that contained the Kyūbi. The Kyūbi, who ravaged the village all those years ago. The Kyūbi he sealed inside his son.
"Ame…" Minato eventually breathed out in exhilaration; tasting the name in a new light.
The older blonde felt like he had better control over his emotions than when Jiraiya had first confessed, yet here he was, eyes tearing up for the umpteenth time that night as he held the small form closer. His eyes were glued to the soft skin where the seal slowly faded away; as if it had never existed at all.
Minato stayed like that for awhile as he tried to focus and collect his thoughts. He needed to be careful. He needed to be smart as he formulated a way to break the news to Ame. His son.
Laughing softly, the blonde closed his eyes and simply cradled the child's body closer still.
The blonde then decided to hell with it all, as he wanted to see those sapphire eyes look at him for once with the knowledge that they were looking at his own dad.
"Ame...I'm…...I'm your father."
And he breathed in a rush of relief at the blunt revelation.
However, at the lack of a response, Minato feared the worst as he opened his eyes and carefully moved them up towards the small boy's face; only to deadpan at the unexpected sight.
The child was sound asleep. Breathing softly against the blonde's chest. Minato couldn't help but smile as he felt the violent vibrations beside him.
"What a reaction, eh!? I don't know kid, but I think he took it a little hard!"
Minato gave his sensei a single warning glance at the uncontrolled laughter. However, he couldn't help but chuckle as his high strung emotions soon got the better of him.
Not wishing to wake his exhausted form though, Minato pushed his sensei away and gently lowered Ame back down against the mattress; tightly covering him with the warm comforter.
"Sleep tight….Naruto" The older blonde whispered into his ear, and gently nuzzled into his soft hair to kiss him.
Minato stayed with him a little longer; simply absorbing the feeling of his son's breathing: his fluttering heartbeat, his calming scent of sandalwood and grapefruit from his bath the other night, the softness of his skin (heart clenching painfully whenever he would slide across scars), and an overwhelming sense of happiness flooded through him that no amount of pain or sadness could match.
The blonde opened his eyes as he felt his sensei pat him on the shoulder and mutter a goodnight.
"Are you staying?" He asked softly.
The white haired man turned around by the door and gave him a dopey grin. "Of course. I have to make sure you don't do anything stupid in the morning."
Minato smiled at that and closed his eyes once more; leaning down completely to encircle Ame's body against his.
"Thank you….sensei...for everything."
"You don't have to thank me, kid. I wasn't able to be there the last time, so I'm simply happy to have been able to help you reunite with him. Now...if you don't mind me...I actually did have quite a bit to drink tonight, regardless of my awesome tolerance skills. But I still feel a bit….tipsy. I'll be passed out in the guest room if you need me."
Minato smiled once more as he listened to his sensei's footsteps grow softer. Looking at the clock nearby left him a bit baffled though.
...I have to send off those mission reports in a couple of hours. Awesome….
Yet, almost as soon as he thought of sleep, a wave of exhaustion passed through him; pausing at his eyelids as they drooped ever so slightly.
Minato released a heavy sigh in response, and sadly got up from his position on the bed to go and change into something more….sleep appropriate. He was, after all, still in his uniform. After swiftly having shimmied down into nothing but his boxers and a white cotton undershirt, the man returned to the five year old's room and carefully situated himself beside the small sleeping form. He brought the comforter around them both and smiled like a school girl as Ame curled up next to him.
The happy father honestly couldn't conjure up anymore vivid feelings though, for he was too emotionally worn out. He simply lowered his head down contently onto the pillow, where Ame's tucked neatly under it, and sighed in contentment as sleep soon overtook him.
[The Following Morning]
Drowsy blue eyes slowly opened as morning light quickly overpowered the room. Ame sighed through his nose and nuzzled deeper into the blankets surrounding him - inhaling their clean linen scent. The five year old soon got up though, for his throat was parched and his stomach gave a painful growl. Coughing quietly, he headed into the hallway where he blindly followed the carpet - stumbling ever so often due to lightheaded-ness. He paused as he came over towards Minato's study, for the older blonde was sitting there in his large chair talking with a strange adult wearing an animal mask.
Tilting his head at the sight, the boy was about to go back and hide in his room when Minato caught his gaze and waved him inside. Ame's heart fluttered as the man simultaneously gave him an incredibly cheerful smile. He really needed to get used to such offhanded displays of kindness; that is to say if Blight didn't catch him again.
Walking into the room, Ame became nervous in the presence of the masked man and quickly took shelter behind Minato's body so as not to face either of them. Thankfully, neither adult took insult towards his manners and just continued talking about work stuff - or at least that's what Ame thought they were talking about. He stopped paying attention when he heard the phrase "tax incentive"; not having a clue as to what either word meant.
He waited ever-patiently by Minato for the other man to leave; taking a soft grip onto the man's arm, who reciprocated by smoothing a thumb over his smaller fingers. The five year old busied himself by occasionally picking up on new words as they spoke.
After awhile, the masked ninja gave a deep bow towards the hokage before turning to the curious child and performing a second.
Ame blinked. Did he just… bow… to me?
The boy watched as the man turned and left through an open window - mind still reeling from the action. He only broke out of his daze when he heard Minato chuckle softly.
"Ame...come here for a minute." the man beckoned towards his lap.
The five year old complied and leaped up into the man's outstretched arms, which encircled his back to support him. He watched his face suspiciously, just as he had always done with adults, and noticed that the older blonde was giving him a very scrutinous once-over. The boy frowned, feeling self-conscious, but nonetheless allowed Minato to gently sweep back his bangs.
"Do you remember any of our conversation last night - after I woke you up?"
Ame scrunched up his face before widening his eyes. "Oh, that was real? I thought I was dreaming." he giggled. "I….remember the feel of our…um...chakra. That's what it's called right?"
Minato nodded while releasing a nervous sigh and moved to sit up straighter. "How are you feeling anyway? I have breakfast cooking downstairs, so you won't have to wait much longer to eat."
Ame looked down at their entwined hands, where Minato's larger one's were still caressing his, and breathed in deeply. "I feel a bit better. Still a lil' dizzy though…"
And slightly nauseous, but he doesn't need to know that. Ame thought lazily.
He felt goosebumps rise on his skin then, as the man's nails began to trail lightly on his back. It felt good. Really good. And he soon found himself curling into the gesture as his shoulders arched for more of the touch.
Minato obliged him but broke the silence in an anxious tone. "Ame…I have something important I need to tell you. Something that may shock you and...I don't know...depending on how you feel about me, it could very well anger you too."
Confused by his statement, Ame leaned away from the massaging hand to look into his face.
"No matter what you may come to think though...just know that I am truly sorry. I couldn't protect you when you needed me the most."
"Protect me from what?" Ame whispered as his stomach dropped sharply from fear. "Has Blight come back for me?"
The elder blonde's eyes widened. "What? No, no! Honey, I would never give you up to that man! It's something completely different, but nothing worth stressing about...well...so to speak. "
Ame tilted his head. "I don't understand."
Minato brought a hand up to smooth gently over a whiskered cheek before speaking once more.
"I made a discovery last night. One that I had been suspicious about for awhile but kept secret for personal reasons. But you have a right to know sooner rather than later." The man then looked down for several seconds and sighed before gazing back at him intently. "Ame, when Blight found you five years ago...he didn't steal you from some random couple that got killed in the attack. He stole you from...me."
Ame frowned as he chewed on the sentence for awhile; understanding slowly creeping into his brain like thick molasses. He was still going over the implications when he distantly heard the elder blonde continue.
"The night that the tower collapsed around you, the village was reduced to nothing but riots and chaos. It must have been so easy for him to..." Minato released a single emotional grunt. "Despite that, all these years I though you were dead - crushed by the debris or worse. But you were alive! You are…"
"...Naruto." Ame finished for him; his body going numb with the full realization.
Minato looked down and beamed at him - his smile radiant, yet tinged with melancholy.
However, the warmth didn't reach Ame like it would have normally.
At Minato's careful nod, the child felt blood rush up into his face as his cheeks burned.
The word echoed in Ame's head a million times before he could properly digest it's meaning, and by that point, the five year old couldn't even begin to focus his train of thought as it erupted into a multitude of directions. Unruly emotions procured an endless sea of questions as he felt himself loose track of reality.
Mina is my… dad? I...I have a daddy…?
He remembered, now painfully aware of the truth, all the times that Blight had called him a sickly orphan to degrade him or of how Miya and Shiro and echoed this and reminded him of his status whenever he accidentally pissed them off.
Yet they were lying. I had a dad the whole time….up in Konoha...
Ame then thought of all the times that Blight had screamed at him, cursed at him, beaten him, punished him. How he had basically hidden him from the rest of the world. Or of Ijin and his brutal way of corrupting him and the other children.
Did they know about his origins?
Ame didn't think they did, due to the way Minato seemed to radiate authority and power on occasion. The old slaver wasn't that stupid….was he?
He was brought out of his self destructive thoughts when he felt Minato lean his forehead against his.
"I understand, you know, if you are angry. I should have been there to protect you from that monster, and because I failed, here you are now with unnecessary baggage that no child should have to bear."
Ame blinked, not noticing the way tears began to leak from his eyes or the way his shoulders softly shook. He didn't know how to respond. What kind of response was Minato looking for? What was appropriate for him to do?
He didn't know how to behave, and that scared him more than anything.
Around his sadistic owner and the normal Underground crowd, he knew to be as submissive as possible and not do anything to bring unnecessary notice upon himself. Civilians here on the surface he tried to ignore, as their carefree way of life tended to make him sad and confused. Children on the surface confused him even more, as they were fun to play with, but were so ignorant and stupid. Why couldn't they learn to talk as he did or to behave around adults as he did?
But more recently, he thought he was just getting the hang of behaving appropriately around Minato: Submissive and polite, as he knew he must be a heavy burden to the older man.
Yet, what was he supposed to do now?
He mused on what he had seen other children do around their parents. Hugs and kisses, playful pranks, and carefree smiles. How was he supposed to accomplish that when he felt his lips shivering ever so slightly and his face crumpling with warm rivers trailing down his cheeks?
Ame startled himself when he heard a quiet sob escape him and was relieved when Minato did nothing but hold him. He wasn't ready to face him in the eyes just yet. To face his father. But as his shaking only increased, the five year old felt his heart ache intensely when the man kissed his hair and forehead tenderly. His lips then moved to kiss away the tears helplessly being born from his eyes and stayed there as the hug deepened.
Ame felt an instinct take over himself then as his mind simply shut off and he lunged himself at the man; latching on for dear life. The older blonde squeezed him harder in response and whispered soothingly into his ear.
"I'm sorry, Ame. So sorry... I never meant for you to suffer like this."
The child thought he heard a heaviness in the man's voice that suggested he was close to tears as well. He couldn't voice any objections though. He couldn't think at all really, as his whole body felt numb and light - as if he could float away at any second.
The feeling made him cling to the older blonde even tighter.
Pain soon came in waves though. A new, foreign kind of pain, unlike the physical stuff he was used to. He thought of all the nice things Minato had done for him during their brief time together, and of the life they could have lived...of the father he could have had. The pure, unadulterated love he could have had.
But instead he was robbed of all that and grew up in a cage - beaten and terrified.
However, as his emotions rose higher and higher, Ame felt a familiar growl startle him back to reality and ground him -almost as if it was chastising him. Swallowing deeply, the child winced at his still-dry throat and withdrew into himself. He didn't know what to say...or even how to speak at the moment.
It should be a safe bet then to simply do nothing at all, right?
Ame closed his eyes and simply drank in the love and affection that the elder blonde was giving him; subduing his cries to mere sniffles.
Minato seemed to notice as he gave him one more kiss on the head before carefully collecting him against his chest and getting up from the office chair. He then wordlessly carried him downstairs and towards the kitchen.
Ame kept his eyes shut the whole time, but he could hear the movements of another person nearby.
"You told him then, I take it?" a gruff, and slightly worried voice asked.
The child felt Minato maneuver his arms a bit as he tended to something on the stove - the smell of cooking sausages filling his nostrils.
There was a short pause as Ame assumed the other man was observing him. "What's wrong? He doesn't look too upset, yet your face is as pale as a ghost."
Ame waited patiently for Minato's answer, as he was sure the stranger was doing. The blonde wasn't quick to respond though, as Ame heard him continue to scrape at some pots before going to collect silverware from a nearby cabinet.
"Help me out for a minute, will ya? It's tough doing all this with one arm - shinobi or not."
The other man gave a small chuckle, but even Ame could tell it sounded a bit forced. "You could always put him down for a second. I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon."
But Minato recoiled away from him slightly at his words, and Ame could feel the blonde protectively shield him as the stranger passed by to help and gather the plates of food. He relished the feeling that action brought on.
"Relax...I know this must be hard...for both of you...but you need to stop being so tense Minato. Maybe it will help calm the boy down."
Ame didn't think Minato was tense though. However, his thoughts soon changed when he felt the elder blonde's muscles release a hidden death grip on his body.
How come I didn't feel him doing that earlier? he mused numbly, slightly wondrous that his thoughts were so coherent in his current state. I thought I was the one holding on too tightly…
Minato then sat them both down at the kitchen table and maneuvered his short legs so that they draped across his thighs. Ame burrowed deeper into his embrace, feeling slightly exposed at the new angle. He could practically feel the stranger's eyes on the back of his head as he heard him join them.
He was brought back though as Minato gently lifted up his chin to meet his eyes.
"You ok, little one? You haven't said a single word since I spilled the beans?"
Ame gazed into his warm face and felt his own tremble again - ever so slightly.
However, he forced the emotions down and frowned at his unusual word usage.
"...spilled...the beans?" he mumbled softly.
Minato smiled at him. "Heh...it means to reveal a secret. Sorry...I know I really need to start simplifying my semantics around you."
The stranger snorted suddenly, drawing Ame's attention. "That sentence is so freaking contradictive. If you want to try and simplify your speech, why the hell would you use a word like "semantic"?"
Minato stared ominously at the man, which caused the faintest smile to flicker on Ame's mouth. However, as he tried to look down and escape the intense blues of the other, the blonde's hand remained on his chin and forced him to keep his gaze.
"Only a minute more, Ame. I know...you must be feeling a lot at the moment...but...just know that I'll always be here if you need to talk. Ok? It's not good to simply keep all of your emotions locked up, even though I'm guilty of it myself on occasion." Minato then gave a sheepish grin as he released his chin and began to untangle their entwined limbs. "I'll try to be less...er...cuddly from now on too. It's a selfish habit I've picked up but it's probably just confusing you, so-"
"No!" Ame cried suddenly, as the mere thought of being separated from Minato caused anxiety to rip through him. His grip tightened on the man's flak jacket, but he found there really wasn't a need to hold on so tightly, as the man's arms soon sheltered him once more.
"Don't let go." he whimpered into his chest; words muffled by the cloth. "Please."
Ame ignored everything else around him; focusing just on the beating of the other's powerful heart. He felt Minato's face press into his hair and the other stranger get up to stand next to them, yet he didn't care. Nothing mattered to him anymore except for his father's calming scent.
"It's alright sensei." Minato spoke quietly after several minutes, as Ame eventually calmed himself down. "You can go and talk to Sandaime now if you want. I've got it covered here."
"You sure?" the white haired man muttered by his shoulder, as he peered at the child with concern.
Minato nodded as he smiled up at the sannin. "Yeah...thanks for all the help. Although, it would be nice if you stopped by later tonight."
Ame felt the stranger pat the elder blonde on the back before ruffling his own small head - at which the child released a huffy snort in protest; face still buried in Minato's jacket.
The strange man laughed quietly and walked away.
"I'll be back sooner than that, kid, and I probably won't be alone either. You might want to prepare him for the imminent popularity he's going to receive."
Ame was only mildly confused as he heard Minato sigh, but didn't relax until he heard the tell tale noise of the front door being opened and closed.
After he was sure the stranger had gone, he eventually released his hands that were knotted in Minato's shirt and eased back into a lower position. Ame then moved to face the elder blonde as the man smoothed a thumb over his cheeks to wipe at the drying tear trails.
"Come now. All this excitement must have gotten you hungry, eh?" Minato murmured lovingly to him as Ame looked into eyes.
Despite feeling his empty stomach throb in agreement, the boy didn't have a strong appetite anymore. He merely leaned down to rest against the man's shoulder as he watched him gather some eggs onto a fork.
Ame grunted in slight protest, but turned his head to bite the morsel of food anyway - sighing contently as his taste buds were awakened.
"It's not much, but please try and continue. I want you to eat at least something before going back to sleep. You need those pills Rin gave me too…" Minato stated as an after thought.
The man tested Ame by shifting to get up, but the child caught on and clung to his shoulders again.
Pausing in his movements, Minato gently rubbed his back to soothe him. "Ame...I'm not going anywhere." he whispered tenderly.
The five year old sniffled and gazed into the man's cerulean eyes. "You promise?"
He watched, a bit mesmerized, as the man's eyes twinkled with affection. "I promise."
That was good enough for now. Ame was puzzled with himself when he let go of Minato and watched the blonde head into the kitchen. He looked at the plate in front of him and nibbled at some sausages.
When did I begin to trust in him so much?
The ache of realizing that Minato was his father was still painfully present, but the knowledge that an adult had managed to maneuver himself so deeply into his heart caused some fresh confusion within the boy. He had never allowed that to happen with anyone before. He knew from experience that people couldn't be trusted.
It's nice though….not having to worry about others. Not now that Mina is here to protect me.
Smiling giddily to himself, he leaned back into the man's hand when it came back after a minute to rest on his shoulder.
"Kay. These pills are a lot bigger than I would prefer, but I need you to swallow them despite that. Think you're up to the challenge?" Minato stated; releasing a smirk.
Ame gave an equally cheeky grin and took the pills from his outstretched hand, observed them critically for a moment, and then simply swung them into his mouth and swallowed. He winced painfully when they went down hard and quickly downed some milk that Minato provided.
"Attaboy. You know, I think that deserves a reward."
And Ame laughed jubilantly when Minato leaned down and squeezed him fiercely in a teasing bear hug.
"Now then," the man chuckled as he released his squirming form and kneeled down to his eye level. "You made due with breakfast so what do you feel like doing next? Are you sleepy at all?"
Shaking his head, the child finished the last bite of sausage and egg and sighed with content. "No...I feel like I'm being too lazy."
Minato frowned and ruffled his hair playfully. "Aw, Ame it has nothing to do with that. You're sick and need plenty of excess sleep." The man sat down in the chair next to him and ate a few bites off his own plate before continuing cheerfully. "You know, you shouldn't have to use that excuse at all really until you're around my age. Kids need lots of rest since you grow so much, last time I checked at least. And even when you become a teenager, ha! you'll sleep so much you won't give a dam-...er...I mean you won't care all that much whether you're coming off as lazy or not. That's how I was at least; drove Jiraiya crazy"
The man was rambling on about something, but Ame wasn't truly listening as he was happy with simply resting his head down on his small arms and listening to the soothing voice of his father.
"Hey, I know. If you get slightly better within the next two days, maybe I can take you out into the backyard for an hour or two." the man mused while looking at him fondly. "Give you some fresh air and all. Plus, I think you'll enjoy the vast garden and koi pond."
Ame perked up and nodded enthusiastically. "Please! I'll get better - I swear!"
Laughing, the man moved to rest a hand on top of his and intertwined their fingers. He quieted down for a minute and simply gazed at them.
Ame followed his look and watched the way the elder's hand positively dwarfed his. He bit his lip as a feeling of melancholy breezed through him suddenly; the feeling of being so cherished and adored contrasting heavily with the way Blight would hold is hand - a look of disgust always present on the slaver's face.
Minato was completely opposite in every way. From little things, like his calm and laid back attitude to the way he carried himself with an air of dominance. Not threatening at all, but just...an Alpha's personality.
Even now, the look of love that the man's eyes held as they gazed at their hands took his very breath away. Ame inched his body closer in response and leaned his head onto the table - tightly locking his fingers with Minato's. He was delighted when, in response, the man echoed him and laid down his own head onto an outstretched arm and gazed into his eyes - neither finding that they could look away.
Ame prayed that the minutes would never end as both simply drank in the other's presence; communicating only with their eyes and knowing now that they were family.
They weren't fixed, per say...the cracks and fractures were still there - a testament to their terrible pain. But they were whole.
[Underground - Tunnel]
The long dark tunnels of the Eastern gates loomed in the distance as Blight wiped at the blood draining from his broken nose. He was kneeled submissively in front of Ijin as the man wiped at his knuckles; having just delivered the blow. The ninja's subordinates were crowded in a threatening circle around him - preventing him from escape.
Not that I even have the ability to run from ninjas...he thought darkly.
"Fool!" the nin spat in front of him; causing the man to wince. "Incompetent piece of shit! I knew something like this would happen eventually...I don't know why the hell I decided to let you hold the boy - precious as he is."
The slaver felt a wave of nausea pass through him as the combined feelings of fear and pain made his insides twirl.
"The contract is almost at it's due date. The client will want the boy delivered by that time or the deal's off! I swear, if your inability to keep the boy chained costs us this once in a lifetime opportunity, I will have your head on a stake in front of my compound! Do you understand?!"
Blight didn't dare look up into the man's face as he responded. "Yes."
"Then, make sure to do whatever it takes to get the damn kid back! I don't care what men or supplies you need. I already have my payment for that."
The rogue ninja shook a chain in front of him which connected to Shiro; cowering in the back wall of the tunnel. The slaver said nothing, as he knew he was powerless to prevent the exchange. The whimpered sobs of the nineteen year old caused guilt to spread through him though, as he would have rather kept the teen for himself then let him suffer the grisly fate he was sure awaited him in Ijin's care.
"You are to go up on the surface and try to capture him as silently as possible. Use force only if you deem it necessary; and even then, I'll have my spies up top making sure you don't cause anymore damage."
Blight sighed as Ijin turned to go, but immediately cowered lower on the floor when the ninja turned back around.
"Oh...and one more thing. I would be extremely careful if I were you. The boy has found shelter up top in the most troublesome form we could have hoped for."
And Blight went absolutely pale as the message sank in.
"Just make sure he doesn't kill you before you send the boy back to us. I would hate for him to take that job away from me…."
Blight only faintly heard him as his nausea triggered again and he collapsed onto the cave floor to quell it; listening numbly to the fading footsteps of Ijin and his men as they disappeared into the dark.
A.N. Well, if you read all of that in one sitting...I applaud you. No seriously.
Now, onto the bad news: I really can't beat around the bush any longer. Try as I might to keep up with all my notes and spurts of inspiration, I highly doubt I'll be getting another chapter of this story out. Not that I've lost my inspiration...Pfff...I'm almost out of college and yet I still keep up with the weekly Naruto manga releases. (I'm so stoked Minato came back, you have no idea! Aankjlnajflbs&*^*)
Anyway, I really am sorry that it took me so long to post this. The reason was that I wanted to give you guys a quality revelation chapter...one that was emotionally appropriate and not a let down in terms of character reactions and what-not. I hope I accomplished something along those lines. If not, then I would love to hear how I could have handled it better. Seriously, I'm always open to honest critique! (I SUCK AT WRITING DIALOGUE) *dies*
Now then...I might end up posting a chapter (much later on) that's filled with nothing but my notes, so you guys can see where I would have taken the plot, but I'm also privy to the unrealistic idea of me posting another REAL chapter sometime in the faraway future - which makes me not want to spoil things. Don't count on that though...
Thanks for all the responses I've received so far, as this is still the only piece of writing I have ever posted anywhere online. My first and only fanfic! It will always be special to me.
God I'm such a boob...