(see crows fly this life)

. ... .

one: for sorrow

Minato thought for the longest time that the saddest thing in the world was the utterly total way Jiraiya loved Tsunade. Not very many people were aware of it - Orochimaru, Sarutobi, Minato himself. He wasn't sure even Jiraiya fully recognized it, but Minato had practically lived with the man during his genin days, and when he had first seen them interact, he had actually assumed they were dating and tried to tease the pair about it. Needless to say, he never made that mistake again.


He had to wonder exactly how willfully blind the two were.

Jiraiya looked at Tsunade like she was a part of himself, as much a part of him as his tattoos and hair and scars. She was his no matter what new guys came along, no matter who died - and he wouldn't verbally claim her even if promised a harem of randy, double-D bisexuals.

Years later, Minato decided that the saddest thing in the world was Dan's death - not because Dan died, but because Tsunade would never get over the guy. He thought: sad and useless and wasteful and FUCKING IDIOTIC.

(He promised to never be that stupid. He promised not to love like that and not to gleefully destroy potential happiness with a yen for putting his own personal spin on masochism.)

Even more years later, Jiraiya decided that the saddest thing in the world was the utterly total way Minato loved -

. ... .

two: for joy

Joy was fighting and learning and teaching. Joy was a beautiful weapon and a complicated technique and a student. Joy was pretending to be an amnesiac as joking payback for some forgotten slight that one time and seeing how incredibly devastated Kakashi's eyes were in the split-second before Minato hastily and guiltily called off the prank. Joy was a good drinking session with the Toad Boss. Joy was tying a shirtless (by her own hand) and snoring Neri-chan to a stump after a wild night at the bar and scribbling all over her skin - was getting away with it while the usually composed Ibiki-kun was hunted down mercilessly by Neri-chan's possessive, kunai-brandishing boyfriend. Joy was receiving one of Kakashi's rare smiles.

Happiness. A fleeting shimmer on a heat-hazy day, illusory and effervescent.

. ... .

three: for marriage

She said, "I don't want to lose my family name, Minato."

He said, "And it would be foolish to disregard my many enemies."

She said, "This is hard for me to say, but I don't think - "

He said, "Kushina, I think it would be best if we don't marry."

She said, "...Oh, good. Well then, that's settled. Now quit stealing my dango, dumbfuck."

He said, "Don't call me dumbfuck, Shi-chan."

When Minato told Jiraiya the specifics of this anticlimactic conversation over sake one night, drunk out of his mind, the older man burst out laughing and asked who they were trying to kid. Minato didn't understand, but that was okay because neither did he remember the man's words after waking the next morning.

. ... .

four: for birth

They were nineteen and Watanuki had just died. They were still covered in blood from the mission (sticky in their hair and staining the vests that had been dropped on the floor and stubbornly setting in the grooves of their fingernails). He was holding back sobs the whole time, and she kept her eyes closed as she brought him to her with her legs and sliced his shoulders with her broken nails.

There was a child (with her hair and eyes and his smile), and she never told him. The father was assumed to be a late ex-boyfriend, and Minato lost touch with her after that night anyway.

(When little Inuzuka Hana finally asked who her sire was, Tsume looked her child - with her hair and eyes and his smile - full-on and said only, "A dead lover.")

. ... .

five: for silver

He was never in love with Uzumaki Kushina, but she had beautiful green eyes and knew better than to fall in love with him and he couldn't have what he really wanted anyway. He had burned any possible opportunity for - the kind of life he never let himself dream of when he told an old man, "I've thought about it already. I accept the position."

Minato settled for silver medal in so many ways.

. ... .

six: for gold

The happiest day of Minato's life happened because of his perverted ex-sensei. It was an unusually lighthearted night all around, despite all (Obito, Rin, promotions, time) that had happened, but Jiraiya had a knack for managing the impossible. After blowing into town that afternoon, he slipped Kakashi something during tea, stuck around to giggle, and skedaddled off to foreign lands before Kakashi woke up the next morning. It was the happiest day of Minato's life not because it was utterly hilarious to see Kakashi staggering around with a silly grin on his bare face - though it was - but because the young teenager pounced on him during the course of the night, snuggled into his side, and told the blond that he was "hotter than the Flames of Youth."

Minato was never sure exactly how that comment was meant, but he didn't allow himself to think that it could have possibly been referring to anything other than his body temperature. Instead, he spent the next two months taking every opportunity to tease Kakashi over actually saying that nutty Maito kid's catchphrase, being careful to allow Kakashi time to think the joke was finally dying before destroying the hope with yet another sneaky segue.

He only stopped the merciless barrage of witty comments once it became impossible to stop himself from analyzing those six words. For the rest of his life - which wasn't very long, true, but that isn't relevant - thinking of that night was enough to make him break into at least a small smile.

No matter that they didn't talk at all during those last eight months.

(Jiraiya made it back on the day of the Yondaime's funeral, half an hour before it started. He planned on leaving Konoha and all of his estranged loves directly after the ceremony, planned on not loving them anymore starting at that very second, but he was held up by Kakashi at the last moment. Kakashi cut him off at the gate, you see, and he asked for more of the drug. When Jiraiya glared and asked why, Kakashi replied, slowly and hoarsely, "I want to be happy."

Jiraiya snorted and reappeared ten feet beyond Kakashi a blink later. He didn't look back when he said, "I put a fucking stale Sweet Tart in your tea, kid. You and the brat just thought you were high. Stupid brat. Stupid life. Kid, I'm sick of stupid shit, of fucking tragedies. I'm sick of lovers not becoming lovers and brats dying in the mud and people not getting what they deserve."

Kakashi blinked his single bloodshot eye, not understanding through his sake haze a word spoken, and said nothing. Jiraiya snorted again and left.

Eight months later, Kakashi received an orange book in the mail - it was a novel in which the hero never died and no one was ever refused love and duty never asked for too much.)

. ... .

seven: for sickness

The Yondaime remembered -

There was a time - before he was assigned Kakashi - when he -

ANBU, of course.

It hadn't seemed like such a terrible life. He hadn't had a problem with the missions or the targets or the torture. Hadn't had a problem with gore or pain or the casual way they killed or -

That was why he had resigned. He hadn't had a problem with it - had done everything required with casual, light interest. The Yondaime remembered this vividly as he stared down at the paperwork that could stop Kakashi from joining the corps.

He remembered vividly. Vividly vividly vividly - and he tore his eyes from the documents to scrutinise the office he never wanted. Leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling.

Minato let his eyes follow the pattern of holes that kunai thrown by bored Hokage had left in the sheet rock and considered dispassionately that he would have perhaps been happier if he had stayed in ANBU. Quickly dismissing sentimental thoughts, he examined the issue at hand.

What made Minato hesitate to approve the appointment was that Kakashi was so cold - colder than Minato had ever allowed himself to be. Kakashi wouldn't resign eight months in, having seen the plunging depths of inhumanity he was comfortable with and capable of - and knowing that Konoha needed him to choose the brighter path. Kakashi wouldn't resign at all. He would place the porcelain mask under his skin and never let go of it -

Kakashi wouldn't choose the brighter path. But he would fit in ANBU. He would fit and stay frozen, clutching apathy with his long, nimble fingers after years of being thoroughly fucked with by life.

Minato thought about promises and happiness and masochism. Minato thought about huge emotional distances and impossible wants that had never gone away. Minato thought about apathy and the human connection made impossible by that tell-tale veneer of porcelain - about invisibility and anonymity and distance.

Minato thought about how he truly wasn't a masochist. Minato decided to prove it.

Five days later, Hatake Kakashi performed his first ANBU mission.

(here i am. here i am tired of wanting. here i am.)

. ... .

eight: for dying

They were dying times, like all wars are. They were times for too-loud bars and too-desperate pickups and too-bright lights and too-heavy drinking. Dying times. Living times. Time to live before they died.

Minato looked across the crackling campfire at his sleeping student and promised himself that Kakashi would have all of the time in the world - that he wouldn't join a litany of names on a cold slab of heroes. Minato wouldn't let Kakashi be a hero. Not that the little smartass would ever allow himself to be killed in the first place, the blond thought fondly.

They were dying times, but Minato and Kakashi couldn't die with them.

You'll be an old man. Promise of a lifetime.

(It was a terribly stupid thing to swear, but Minato would never know that.)

. ... .

nine: for passion

There was a kiss, just once - like an explosion, like a wave, like every overwhelming and awing and entrancing force of nature in existence. It was lava replacing Minato's bones and his hands becoming part of the brick wall they were braced against because it was never going to end thank Kami.

It was -

Like a dream.


Minato didn't fall asleep again that night.

. ... .

ten: for paid debts

He never wanted to be the Hokage, really. He just wanted to be strong enough to kill the image of his father when the nightmares came, quick enough to protect his sister, smart enough to outmaneuver his mother. (Minato subconsciously thought that if he became powerful enough, he would find his lost twin simply by virtue of sheer personal perfection. He was disappointed, naturally.)

But when he looked at his life - at his life: at fitting in and being a part of Leaf and being liked and disliked and idolized and loved and hated - he could only think of the person he owed it to. So he visited Sarutobi's office one morning - and saw age invading the man's body, saw exhaustion in the way the Professor rubbed his eyes while signing documents.

Minato never wanted to be Hokage, really. He preferred being a little less scrutinized, a little less harassed by politics, a little more subtle. Sarutobi asked, though, and Jiraiya thought it was hilarious - and he owed Sarutobi for creating fake credentials for him so many years ago.

(He hated Sarutobi in a half-hearted way while he prepared to commit suicide for the village. He would have hated the old man more intensely if he had had the concentration or energy to spare, but there were only a couple of hours and everyone was dying and Konoha was dying with them.)

Minato never wanted to be Hokage.

. ... .

eleven: for a secret never to be told

Minato was not an orphan, but no one in the village knew who his family was. If pressed, the villagers would concede that yes, adorable little Minato-kun did have a home of his own, and, yes, of course he lived with his parents, but no one could ever pinpoint who exactly Minato's parents were or even when they had met them. When one of the adults remembered to ask, Minato would smile cutely and continue on to completely distract the interrogator without them noticing - even if they were high-ranked shinobi. He had simply always been there, the villagers would realize, playing ninja with their children and staying for dinner.

He was not an orphan, but no one except Sarutobi ever met his family - not even Jiraiya. And Sarutobi never said a word.

There was only a single time when someone wasn't distracted by Minato's smile-and-babble. It was in the middle of - not a fight, but a heated argument. It was in the middle of a heated argument between himself and his eight year old student. Minato was trying to get Kakashi to vent about his father's suicide, something that Kakashi viciously resisted. It went something like:

" - you'll feel better if you'll just admit how much you hate him - "

Annoyance flashed through Kakashi's eyes. "Like you hate your father?"

The sharp lines of the sixteen year old's face melted into a slightly confused smile. "What? Kakashi-kun, what gave you that idea? You know I love my dad."

Kakashi glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, still facing straight ahead as they ate the disgusting bento Minato had fixed for them. He quietly and clinically said, "No one has ever met your parents. No one ever mentions your parents. No one knows who your parents are even supposed to be."

Minato's smile tightened under the force of the boy's calculated lack of attention. "I don't understand what you're saying, but - oh. Ghnkgk. Kami, I am never cooking again. These onigiri are truly repulsive. We're bumming off of Neri-chan tomorrow, okay? Be sure not to piss her off between now and then. In fact, just avoid her altogether. I don't think we'd live through another one of my meals."

But Kakashi knew this to be a weak point, and he stuck with it doggedly, determined to get the blond to leave off about Sakumo once and for all. "Why doesn't anyone know your family, Sensei?"

"I think we should get back to training," he replied calmly, all trace of a smile gone.

Kakashi turned his head in small surprise at the reaction. "Sensei?"


They looked at each other for a moment. Kakashi's young gaze narrowed skillfully.

"I," he said softly, "can't imagine what it would take to make you hate your father."

The young jounin's face suddenly brightened with false zeal. "Of course! If I just - oh, I'll see you tomorrow, Kakashi-kun. I'm going to cut training short - I have the best idea for my new jutsu!"

"Minato-sensei - "

And Minato didn't let it come up again. (Kakashi didn't try to press it again, either. Not when Minato had shown up to training the next day with busted knuckles, a black eye, a slight limp, a wrinkled uniform, a dried trail of blood underneath his nose, and a smell of alcohol hanging about him that was so rank and full of character that it almost deserved its own name.)

Minato was not an orphan, but there was a man in an high-security asylum who had the blond's smile (all the time, especially in his peaceful, gore-filled sleep), and a woman in a cell in Ame who had, before countless buzz cuts and premature aging, had Minato's hair. There was a green-eyed blonde two minutes younger than him who lived as a maid to a wealthy merchant in Iwa. (Minato never could find her.)

. ... .

12: for questions answered

Namikaze Minato rarely swore. He liked green eyes. He didn't have a favorite food. He slept best on the floor and loved someone who was not his lover. The reason he never brought flowers during hospital visits was because it struck him as morbidly ironic. His personal papers in the village database were all forged. He went a little mad during the war. (He went a little mad in the war a little mad in the war a little mad in the war, and maybe he always kept a piece of that cold, precise madness locked away in the deeps of himself that he never knew existed, really - where he kept memories of his life before Konoha.) There were three days a year when he would ambush Kakashi and manhandle the boy into helping clean his apartment. He had fantasies of assassinating the Council. Most of his friends died young. He didn't bond with the child in Kushina's stomach. He never thought he made the people he loved happy enough, and he was right because he only truly loved one person, and that person was someone he couldn't allow himself to.

He didn't think about what he was about to do to the crying baby until he looked down at his son (with his hair and eyes and her smile); even then, he only paused for a moment to tell Sarutobi to make sure young Naruto was treated well. Most of his teammates died young. Every member of his family - despised parents and lost sister and the daughter he never knew about and the son he just never knew - outlived him by at least eighteen years. He only invented Hiraishin no Jutsu to know he had accomplished the impossible. He didn't bother to keep a kill count - too caught up in keeping his people alive to give much more than a passing thought to the deceased enemy - but he did take out about half of Iwa's forces during the war with his own hands, and it struck him one night that he probably had the highest personal body count in the history of Konoha. (No, it did not really make him proud. It made him laugh somewhat disbelievingly and decide to hunt down Kakashi for dinner.)

Most of his students died young. He lost his virginity at fourteen. None of his family members were informed of their loss when Minato died, including his son. (The three year old daughter he never knew about did overhear her mother talking about it, but she was too young to understand anyway.) His name before Konoha was Miki and his twin's name was Mika; he was always very sure that it was supposed to be some sort of twisted humor, but he never saw it. Dogs adored him, which irritated Kakashi to no end. During the beginning of his childhood in Konoha, Minato went home to his empty flat for a month before getting fed up and starting the rounds in his new friends' homes. He liked the color grey. Sometimes he was grateful for Kakashi's tragedies, though he tried not to be. He never had any pets, but he did grow sunflowers in his window box until he was pronounced Hokage - and then he just never had time to care for them, lucky to get home every couple of nights and grab a few hours of sleep. He wasn't a naturally kind man, though he did try to be and enjoyed a large measure of success in the endeavor. He was an abominably bad cook, but he somehow made the best blueberry muffins in all of Konoha. When he hated, which he managed to keep rare, he hated with all the strength of void and control and precision (he went a little mad in the war a little mad in the war a little mad in the war). He didn't really understand the concept of love very well - he was awkward with it, not knowing how to only love a little and hold back some of the heart. (And he gave it all to one person too soon, and it never would have worked and he didn't even try.) He searched for his sister with a kind of leashed desperation; he never knew that Sarutobi made sure he wouldn't find her. He liked to crochet when he needed busywork. His friends and teammates loved him deeply and gladly. He was an amazingly intelligent man, but he could be incredibly oblivious and ditzy.

When he noticed the dead sunflowers in his window, he resisted the urge to find someone - anyone - and make them hurt.

. ... .

(...Yes, he loved him.)

A/N: Question - does anyone get Minato's thought process in seven? Anyway, this was written for the Yonkaka LJ comm challenge - a fic or art celebrating the life of the Yondaime. ...And I just realized that there was a deadline.

It was six days ago. Oops. (sweatdrops)

The folk rhyme "Counting Magpies" or "Counting Crows" embodies old avian superstition. One magpie or crow flying over means sorrow is coming - two for joy, three for a marriage, four for a birth, five for silver, six for gold, seven for sickness, eight for dying, nine for passion, ten for paid debts, eleven for a secret that will never be told, and twelve for questions answered. There are different variations, but this is the one I used. I hope you lot enjoyed it! I'd love to hear your thoughts on my take on Minato and his relationships. Feedback is my chosen deity.

And now I'm off to post the fourth chapter of TAATYDU. (grins)