Sky is Falling
((to change the world, start with one step))
((however small, the first step is hardest of all))
His world opens the same way it did for a child, with such bright brilliance and shocking color that it seemed unreal and very much so fake, as if he'd lived his life looking at the spectrum of colors that made up the world through a goldfish bowl.
Suddenly, everything was in focus, everything was demanding his attention and there was no way he could actually look at everything without overloading his brain. To compensate, he slowly closes his eyes (hoping that the world would still be there when he opened them) and then watched the unfocused world slowly sharpen again, this time at a pace that his mind would be able to understand.
And then, his eyes met the brilliant shade of another equally blue, a sky sucked into these eyes, shining like lightened windows.
Tanned skin and bright, bright, eyes. The sun glistened off of the blond in the man's hair; his smile was just as sunny as the day that was passing by them.
He could vaguely remember—
But his world was black and white for a long time…fuzzy and the only thing he could remember was Sarutobi's face…fighting…Orochimaru's hands controlling him.
—those whiskers on his cheeks were so familiar.
His vision is going at milliseconds, flashes of images that he remembered but didn't quite remember were going by like watching a film sped up twice over. There was the feeling of dread sinking into his stomach—like he was forgetting something so important that it would overpower him the moment he remembered. He just wished he knew what he was forgetting, and whoever's face was in front of him was connected to his memories.
A fox, a great fox…with nine tails…
His subordinates screaming in terror around him, young men not ready for such a creature of destruction looking at him with hope he knew was false—he knew that he was no savior, he was, in fact, a murderer of the worst kind…murdering an innocent who had no voice or say…a baby boy—
And it all came back to him.
"Naruto." He breathes, eyes never leaving the whiskers.
The boy—man really, grown from nothing but a babe into someone who might even be taller than him.
He expected the man in front of him to look at him with something akin to confusion, but instead, he smiles wildly and happily.
"Hey! That's good, you remember me. The medics said that you would completely blank out on everything but your name."
"I'm Minato." He says quickly, almost blandly. As if to prove a point. "I've been Yondaime for a year now. I'm twenty-five. My wife's name is Kushina and my son's is…"
He trails off, pointedly looking to the grinning man in front of him. "…Naruto."
"And you remember that to!" The cheerful man—that was his fully grown son, actually. It was a hard thought to wrap his mind around—doesn't seem phased in the slightest. "That means you remember the Kyuubi as well. Anything after that?"
He stops to pause.
"I was…under Orochimaru's influence. I don't remember much, except that I couldn't break whatever hold he had on me—
"Edo Tensei." Naruto fills for him. "It's Orochimaru's weird freaky Jutsu that used dead Hokage's bodies' against their will to fight for him."
"He's dead now, by the way." Naruto adds helpfully.
"How long was I…?" He trails for the right words. "Under his influences?"
"A while." Naruto confesses quietly. "Years. When I was twelve Sarutobi and you battled, do you remember that?"
Twelve? Minato blinks in shock. Those hazy memories seemed like they had happened only a couple days ago, if his sense of time wasn't ruined and distorted as it was, he may have believed that. And he looked…well, Minato isn't sure how old his son looked. His age, maybe even older. His son is wearing black shinobi pants that ended before his sandals, and a stretch shirt with netting under it that reminded him of ANBU, but there was no mask.
"Well, it's been nearly twenty years since then."
Minato gapes. "T-Twenty?!"
Naruto has a solemn face, and Minato notes that he looked nothing like the adorable baby-faced child he had seen before he died, the only resemblance was the whiskers. "Orochimaru has been defeated for a while now, but his lab had never been discovered. Just recently, some ANBU had uncovered it, and found the tombs that Orochimaru had kept you, the Nidaime, and the Shodaime dormant in."
Minato blinks again, remembering vaguely fighting along side someone. "And what of them?"
Naruto shakes his head. "Too far gone. Their natural bodies had aged so much that it was impossible to restart their heart."
"How long do I have?" Minato asks softly.
Naruto smiles at him sadly. "A day at most…the medics didn't want to wake you up, but I figured that you'd rather spend your last day in the village you love, right?"
The wrenched feeling he felt when he had defeated Kyuubi, that had turned into this quite sort of knowingness came back in full force. At least he had one more day…
"That'd be great." He smiles, feeling relief. "I could go for some ramen."
Naruto blinks, once, twice, before his eyes crinkled and he near doubled over laughter. Minato didn't know what was so particularly funny, but his son seemed quite enthralled.
"W-Wow…" The other blond man catches his breath. "My Sensei, ah, Kakashi, used to say we were quite alike. I wasn't aware just how much so until just now."
Minato's face splits into a grin. "Kakashi had a Gennin team? By god."
Naruto nods solemnly, expression mock-serious. "Oh yes, those poor souls, reduced to waiting day in and day out for their porn reading Sensei. He's late by near three hours daily."
Minato is withering on the floor in unhindered laughter, unable to stop himself and finding that the laughter lifted his spirits and washed his troubles clean. Maybe it was the thought of only having one more day before finally—finally—finding peace.
"What shall we do today then?" He says with mirth.
Naruto sighs, this time, he wasn't spurious about it. "Well you see, I have many duties to go about these days…not much time for fun. But, if you want, you can catch up at Ichiraku's—your favorite, right?—and I'll introduce you to some people who would be quite interested in meeting you."
Minato looks questioning at that, but followed anyways. His son explains in hurried tones that he had taken Minato's body out of the hospital, joking that he knew how it felt to wake up in one of those bland, white colored rooms. Minato could not agree more. He is pleasantly surprised how mature his son is, if his own youth was anything to go by Naruto would be a very ill-tempered young man with a knack for trouble and a bit mulish. However, the relative in question was anything but, as if patient by nature and built for listening and understanding. He had never doubted his son would have a big heart, and was happy to note that Naruto did have one.
"Yeah, Kakashi's grown a lot. He's got two children now, eldest's name is Obito, and the youngest is a girl named Rin. Cute little thing, honestly she's a knock out—
"Rokudaime-sama!" An array of ANBU appear in swarms of smoke.
"Rokudaime?" Minato echoes, clearly impressed.
Naruto only smiles sheepishly. "Maybe it runs in the blood…?" Before he turns to his ANBU. "What's up ducklings?"
From their tightened shoulder muscles, Minato notices that they don't really care much for the nickname.
"A Chuunin team has just arrived from Suna with troubling news."
Naruto sighs dramatically, before turning back to Minato with another fresh smile on his face. "Duty calls," He salutes. "But I should be done soon."
Before Minato can ask him how exactly Naruto plans to find him (he later realizes in retrospect if he had asked it would have been a moot point, because a Hokage always knows where all of his citizens are) the Rokudaime disappears in a swirl of leaves, and the ANBU that hadn't bothered to greet their Yondaime—too young to know him personally, Minato sighs—disappear just as quickly.
He makes his way over to the heart of Konoha, pleased to notice that it wasn't that difficult to find anything. Ichiraku is stationed just where it always has been, not wavering for over thirty years. The young woman named Ayame who greets him is a new face, but her old man in the back isn't.
He orders chicken-Miso, passing the cooking time patiently by surveying Konoha past the blinds that cover the stall, enjoying remembering how to breath and the comely pastel blues of the sky.
"Yo Ayame-chan! Hit me up with some chicken Miso huh?" A blonde, wearing a flask jacket, sits next to him exuberantly.
Minato inspects him quietly, noting the Chuunin flask jacket, the sunny blond hair and bright blue eyes that resemble his and Naruto's. He smiles like he doesn't have a care in the world, and Minato feels like Konoha must be a great place, everyone is always smiling and in good spirits. Naruto must take great care of his country.
"Minato-kun!" Says the pretty brunette behind the counter, and the Yondaime gapes. "This is your third bowl today!"
The other blond—Minato—the Yondaime remembers dazedly, only shrugs, grin stretching over his face like some sort of lazy cat. "Yeah well, growing boys have gotta eat!"
"Your father won't be very happy." Ayame says seriously. "He has a lot more to worry about then just your health, running the village and all."
Minato—the Chuunin Minato—rubs the back of his head sheepishly. "Man, way to make me feel bad. Fine, cut up some vegetables and add them in there, alright?"
The Ayame girl takes it as a decent answer, and heads to the back, leaving the two blondes to themselves. He uses the time to study the lines fo the other Minato's face, maybe around seventeen? Or eighteen? (they are related, the Yondaime thinks with some perplex linear thinking. Grandparent. He's a grandparent.)
"Minato?" The Yondaime decides to break the ice first. "Is that a common name around here?" Maybe after he died, his name became one of those hero names, the way every ninja names their kid Sasuke.
Luckily, the Chuunin doesn't take it as an insult (and even if he did, insults slide down his back a lot nicer than they do his fathers) and instead, wears that outrageously large grin again. "Nah, I'm named after my grandpa. The Yondaime and all."
"Oh?" Said Yondaime feigns surprise. "Wow, the Yondaime and the Rokudaime? Must be in your blood."
Minato laughs good-naturedly. "Yeah, I hear that all the time, even from my old man! I really have no aspirations to be the Hokage though, that's enough for one heritage line, don't you think?"
The Yondaime smiles charmingly. "I completely concur."
"My sister though…" The Chuunin has this far off cheerful look when he starts to talk about his sister. "She's one spitfire, and a bit ill-tempered. She'd be a great Hokage though, just like Tsunade, all controlling and packing those powerful punches."
Yondaime assumes that Tsunade was the Godaime, and pretends not to be even a bit lost. "How old is your sister?"
"Thirteen." Minato quips quickly. "She's a Gennin, but its hard because of her condition. A birth defect." The Chuunin explains quickly. "She was premature, and there was something wrong with her immune system and lungs, so its hard for her to breath and she's more susceptible to sickness."
The cheerful grin loosens on his face, morphing into something akin to sadness, but his eyes show his pride in his younger sister, and the Yondaime is happy to know that his family cares for each other.
"You love your sister very much." He points out; even though he knows that the young boy with his namesake is fully aware of this.
Minato's grin is back on his face in seconds. "Yeah, she's a pain, but I can't imagine a life without her."
"Whoa! Already met and having ramen!" A boisterous voice interrupts them. "You guys make my day so much easier."
Minato—the Chuunin—is quickly grabbed into a hug slash extreme noogie at the same time, with a yelp of surprise. However, the Yondaime is left unscathed from such an event.
"Minato," He directs to his son. "Meet Minato."
The Chuunin blinks in surprise, before his eyes widen and he looks back to the man he was talking to with newfound curiosity and respect. The Yondaime figures its because the young Minato looks up to his father as his role model, and anyone on such close terms with him is deemed in high respect.
"Your names Minato too?" He says, for lack of better words. The inability to come up with proper terms is definitely a family thing.
"Remember what I was telling you about with the Edo Tensei?" Naruto whispers quietly in his son's ear, and the only reason the Yondaime can hear is because of his years of ANBU training.
The boy nods quickly.
"Well, that's the Yondaime."
There is silence for quite some time, before,
Yondaime suggests to himself that the boy is around fifteen, with the heart of a child.
He eats with them, and enjoys playing twenty-year catch up on the what-about that has happened in the years he's been sleeping as virtually a puppet with strings. He's contented by the fact that nothing really has changed, the people of Konoha still have large hearts, and the Hokage is still a very straight forward man who wants nothing but the best for his people, unscathed of the ill-intentions that fester in the world.
Eventually, the young Chuunin with his namesake has to get back to guard duty (at this, he groans, and the Yondaime is sorely reminded of is own Chuunin—who might even be retired by now??—who did the same) and Naruto needs to get back to work before the paperwork piles to the ceiling. He laughs at that, because he is only too aware on what that feeling is like. He makes his way around Konoha, enjoying the breath that makes its way from the sea, and will pass on all the way to Suna, then to Iwa, before eventually setting here again in the spring.
He sees his face glimmering in the sunlight on the mountain, looking at him, as if telling him what he had achieved, and what he had lost.
Deciding that the Hokage Mountain is where he'd like to spend his last hours, he makes the trek up to the towering stone heads.
Konoha is beautiful from up here, the bustle and all together fast-paced feeling of society is quickly replaced with the hushed tones of nature, lulling him slowly with its fresh air and the melodious sound of the world singing. The sky is a bright, bright blue, that's only seen in the days foretelling snow, and it brings out the Prussian in his eyes. There's so much he misses from when he was alive, and he tries to just calmly let all the emotions that he missed plow through him like some sort of maelstrom.
By the time he gets to the top, Minato realizes that this body of his has taken the toll its actual age, and even if he feels like a twenty-five year old man, he is actually a near sixty year old Hokage who has strained his body enough for more than seven life times.
His breathing is labored, but he's happy for the trek, and the view is rewarding.
Yondaime makes his way over to the startlingly large heads (were they always this big, or has he just simply forgotten?) he sees someone else has taken his favored spot on the Sandaime's head.
The girl has a comely appearance, she's not particularly attractive, and her bust size does not equal the equator, but she has a pretty face and delicate, soft curves.
Her hair is done up in shiny blond pigtails, but even from this distance he can tell that it is very thin and feather-light. She doesn't look like a ninja—but the hike up here for normal civilians is quite a toll—and she's as slender as a rail with slightly tanned skin, as if its her natural skin color and she doesn't spend much time outside.
She's carefully placed on a spike of hair on his head, delicately balanced like a bird ready for flight.
Minato's not entirely too sure if she's a ninja until he sees an abandoned hitai-ate next to her, and he frowns. No ninja would disgrace their headband by taking it off, almost everyone he knows is quite proud to wear their headband.
Deciding the best way to find out would be to make conversation, he decides that his own head will have to be second best, and plops down on one of his more prominent spikes.
"Hello," He says conversationally, hoping that he doesn't sound like much of a stalker.
She eats a piece of Nigiri from her bento box.
"We look alike." Says the girl pointedly, pointing at him rudely with her chopsticks.
He's impressed that she knows what he looks like even though she hasn't looked up.
"Why aren't you wearing your hitai-ate?"
If she's startled by the accusation-part-question, she doesn't show it. She's apparently preternaturally quiet, with a fragile looking face like a china doll and intense eyes and her hands are like a delicate pair of butterflies.
"My names Misaki." She tells him, instead of answering his question.
He nods. "Pretty name."
"My grandmother." Misaki explains, still picking at the pieces of fish in her bento. "From my mother's side. Since my brother already has a name from my father's side."
"Who's your brother?" He asks, interest piqued.
She skewers him with her eyes in a side glance as if he may be slightly retarded, before she returns to her food, poised slightly in her seat. "You don't know?"
"I wouldn't ask if I knew." Yondaime rebuttals.
Her eyes fall downcast, watching the dizzying drop below. "His name's Minato, he's Chuunin."
Yondaime has learned how to read body language since he was twelve, and it hasn't ever failed him. She's not happy about disclosing the information, and her eyes speak of slight jealously. This must be the sister that his Chuunin counterpart is so proud of, but looking at her, (even though she's his granddaughter) he can't particularly tell why. She's an attractive girl, her sickliness is only shown in her weight and height, but it was hard to tell. She could have been just born tiny.
But what angers him is that she isn't wearing her hitai-ate. It is ninja pride that allows them to wear their hitai-ate with confidence. And it signifies the unity of the country, and the loyalty that lies within each and every shinobi heart that wears the insignia. It represents the thousands that die to honor the country, and should not be tarnished as such.
"I don't wear my hitai-ate…" She starts, and she must be very perceptive to read his anger when he has so carefully hidden it. "Because I don't believe I deserve it."
"If you passed your Gennin exam," He quotes the Sandaime with this. "Then you are honored to wear the hitai-ate with pride."
She shakes her head, and from his angle her identically delphinium eyes look misty, but it may just be the sunlight reflecting. "No…it might not be."
"You don't trust the intuition of your instructors?"
"Not that." Misaki sighs, and even now can Minato see Kushina in her. "But I just wonder if they do it out of respect for my father. He's…he's a great man, and everyone respects him. People realize how much he gives for our country, and I feel like perhaps passing me was another way of showing their gratitude."
Minato is relieved to find that Misaki does not speak like Kushina (who, at this point, would be yelling and crying and tongue-tied for words, and Misaki seems rather diligent with her vocabulary and articulation) and has a deep understanding for the language, and he doesn't have to go through bouts of crying and wails to understand what's troubling her.
"If they really wanted to show gratitude to your father," He starts with. "They would do it by not passing you. If you aren't capable, then sending you into the field would be an overall disservice to your father and the country, and would be considered a high treason."
Her eyes are round, and she seems astounded at his words, as if her life has been sheltered from such words. Her bento lays finished beside her, and he can see that he's made a mark on his young granddaughter. Misaki looks like she's about to speak.
"You speak like a Hokage." She decides upon, finally.
He smiles forlornly, watching the sun make its lazy stretch across the sky. "Huh, maybe I was, in another lifetime."
Misaki gets up to leave, collecting her bento box and—to his delight—ties her hitai-ate on her forehead. Whatever was troubling her has obviously been soothed, and Minato has the feeling that it was him who helped her overcome this, and as a grandparent, makes him feel absolutely delighted. It's as if they were his own children, and he's happy he's been able to experience the joys of parenting and grand-parenting, even in such an elapsed and shortened time he has.
Misaki graces him with a wide smile, and in that instance, Minato can see Kushina very clearly, her wide grin and wild orange hair streaming behind her, bright eyes filled with mirth and joy.
"Thank you." She smiles, as she stands, and looks like she's going to jump off (Minato will watch closely to make sure she doesn't land incorrectly, but he thinks she'll do find) before turning to him. "I never asked your name."
His smile widens, and he notices again the similarities his family shares with him.
"My name's Minato."
Her eyes widen impeccably, however, her feet have already lifted off and she's making the dizzying jump to the world below, even though her wide and startled blue eyes watch him.
By the time she's out of sight and hopping over roof tops, he has this feeling of accomplishment, as if he doesn't have a care in the world. For once, in a long time, he's happy not be Hokage, and just enjoy his city without the aftermath of cleaning up for her paperwork. Minato decides that Sandaime was a lucky bastard when he retired, and probably did this day in and day out. And he's grateful for at least one day to feel the same.
He'll never regret what he had to do for his country (actually, he knew that if he had woken up and Naruto was mad at him, he would have certainly felt guilty) by sacrificing himself, his son, and perhaps even his own lineage to the great demon, and ended up in the Shinigami's stomach, but fate has an odd way making things go round.
Soon enough, the tiring day has him resting his head against the longer of his spikes carved into the rock, and the hike up has taken its toll.
His eyes are slowly drooping, and vaguely—in between the hum of bliss and contentment—he wonders if this is his time to go.
By the time he opens them again the sky is like a firecracker of reds and orange, the sun is stretching its last hands of chambray into a darkening navy blue sky twinkling with stars, and Konoha is alit with its lights.
Then he notices three blond heads are also on the Hokage Mountain, one of them he immediately recognizes as Naruto.
Chuunin Minato is also there, a fire is lit on the ground that dips right near the heads, and he's roasting marshmallows with his sister and their father, and it looks near picture perfect.
The first to immediately notice his awakening was the Rokudaime himself, who discreetly moves himself as his two children begin to get into a fight about who gets the last marshmallow, and he walks over.
"Enjoy your nap?" He greets happily, as if the smile on his face never truly goes away.
Yondaime smiles, feeling lighter, but at the same time weaker, he knows he's going soon. "Great, I'm enjoying my last day."
Naruto must already note that the day is passing by them quickly, and his last moments are upon them.
"I just wanted to say," He looks back over to his kids, Misaki is yelping as Minato stuffs the last of the marshmallows into his mouth with a satisfied smirk. "That I love you dad."
Minato's face splits into the happiest smile he's ever felt, as if he's waited his entire life to hear those words and now that moment has finally arrived.
"I know," His eyes feel heavy again, and this time, he knows that he's not going to wake up. "I love you too."
((you said you never did,))
((because you might die trying))