You Can Let Go
By: Hitokiri Musei
Summary: The years have gone by, and Naruto finds himself facing one of the toughest things he ever has; saying goodbye to the man that he sees as his father.
Warnings: Future fic. I think that's really it… Character death, of course. I take some license with Iruka and Naruto's past together as well as a few other things. I also changed the lyrics a bit at the end. Other than that… I had the random urge to write something really sad. I hope you like it.
Ah the Naruto fandom, how I have missed thee! I don't know why this is the first thing that popped into my head, but hey, you take what you can. It's kinda depressing, but so is the song (which I recommend listening to while you read, makes a HUGE difference.) Well, enjoy!
I don't own Naruto or "You Can Let Go" by Crystal Shawanda.
Uzumaki Naruto closed his eyes as the wind blew over his face, raising his head towards the sky. The cool air caressed his sun-kissed skin, stirring his shoulder-length blond hair around his head.
The just rising sun in the distance shone faintly over the horizon, illuminating the village before him. Naruto opened his cerulean eyes, looking out over the homes and shops of Konoha, a faint smile coming onto his lips as he did.
Everything was so peaceful; it was almost like a painting. Naruto ran a hand through his blond spikes, stirring them away from the hiate strapped around his forehead before pressing his hands behind him to push himself to his feet. His red coat flowed around his muscular body, the black flames dancing near his knees.
Naruto turned his head, his startlingly blue eyes meeting the seafoam green ones of Haruno Sakura, his lead medic as well as personal assistant. He smiled, his eyes closing briefly in happiness. "How many times have I told you Sakura, you don't have to call me that. I think that we're close enough that you don't have to use that title with me."
Sakura smiled, shaking her head. "I know, I know. Now come on, it's almost time for the first group to be here for their mission."
The blond Hokage stretched his arms above his head, cracking his fingers. "Right, I'd forgotten. What would I do without you, Sakura?"
"You'd probably forget to breathe, knowing you." Sakura said, a laugh in her voice. "Now come on, let's go."
A little shocked, Naruto looked up from the papers lying on his desk, meeting Sakura's eyes. Worry flooded through him as he saw the fear in her eyes and he leapt to his feet, taking a step towards his friend. "What's wrong, Sakura?"
Her eyes flickered away for an instant and then she met his gaze again. "Iruka's in the hospital."
Naruto's eyes widened and he ran forward, following Sakura as the woman whirled and ran through the doorway. They were at the hospital in a flash, Sakura leading the blond through the halls and to the doorway of Iruka's hospital room.
The teacher was lying in the slightly raised bed, his body seeming thin and frail. Iruka was only 42, but now he looked old and worn out, lying there under the white sheets. He was unconscious at the moment, his face tired and wane.
The words escaped Naruto at a whisper as he moved forward to sink into a chair beside the bed, his hands automatically reaching for his surrogate father's.
Sakura's eyes were down, her face sad. "He was out with a team as a replacement for one of the Jounin. It was a simple mission, there wasn't any need to worry, but something went wrong, they got attacked."
Naruto swore softly; he remembered Iruka volunteering to take that mission earlier today when the Jounin in charge of that team had fallen ill. They had laughed about it at the time; it was a D rank mission, there was no worries about Iruka supervising the team.
"Iruka got them out, but…"
There was no more explanation needed, Naruto understood. Iruka hadn't been the same since the attack on Konoha by Pain nearly 15 years ago. His near death had left him a little weaker than normal and tired quite often, though it didn't interfere with his everyday life. While he had managed to save his students, his weakened body had taken the attack hard.
"Is he going to be okay?" Naruto whispered, his hand clenching tighter around Iruka's warm hand.
Sakura took a moment to speak. "We've… done all we can."
Naruto's heart clenched and he lowered his head, tears welling his eyes. Sakura could only turn and leave the room as the strongest person that she had ever known broke down at his father's bedside.
The blond child turned his head, a huge grin coming onto his face as he spotted the man heading towards him. He broke into a run, hitting Iruka in the knees and wrapping his arms around his thighs.
The 18 year old Chuunin smiled, ruffling the child's bright hair. "I've been looking for you, you prankster. Where have you been hiding?"
Naruto's big grin widened as he looked up at his surrogate father. "I was trainin'! You said I have to train hard so you can be my teacher and I can be Hokage someday!"
Iruka laughed softly, nodding as he knelt down to the 8 year old's level. Such big dreams for a child… The Academy teacher thought. "That's right, but don't you want to go have some fun? Why don't we go to the park?"
Naruto lowered his head. "I don't want to go there… No one plays with me…"
"Well then…" Iruka said with a scoff. "We'll just have to play by ourselves, now won't we? We don't need those kids to have fun."
The grin returned to Naruto's face and he nodded. "Yea!" With that Naruto wrapped his hand around Iruka's fingers, pulling him off towards the playground.
As they walked Iruka heard the whispers of the people around them, and he ignored them valiantly while holding tighter to the child's hand. He felt insanely protective of Naruto, who had no one else in the world to care for him. It was almost as though the sunny boy was his own son.
Naruto looked up at him, flashing a wide grin. "Come on, Ruka, we're almost there! Will you push me on the swings? Oh, I wanna climb on the monkey bars!"
Iruka smiled, running with Naruto as the boy broke into a sprint, laughter bubbling from his throat. As they reached the playground the parents there ushered their children away, even though many protested. Iruka ignored the looks, but Naruto took a step back, pressing himself against Iruka's legs as he glared up at the adults giving him such disapproving stares.
The brown-haired man sighed faintly, and then leaned down and slipped his hands beneath Naruto's arms, lifting him. Naruto didn't protest, only smiled happily when Iruka held him up to the monkey bars. Iruka held onto him while he got his grip, though a part of him wanted to keep the boy close to him, to protect him from the looks.
"You can let go, Ruka." Naruto's voice broke the stupor, and Iruka smiled, slowly letting his hands slip from the boy's skinny body.
Even so, he remained close, ready to catch him if he fell.
Iruka couldn't help but feel pride swell in his chest as he looked at the young man standing before him, shoulders squared and a faint smile on his face. Naruto's blue eyes met his and softened slightly, his smile widening as love shone in his gaze.
You're a man now, Naruto… Iruka thought faintly, watching as Tsunade moved forward. You're a strong, intelligent man, and you've finally achieved your dreams…
Achieved his dreams, and surpassed those before him. He had become the youngest Hokage ever, beating his father by two years. At age 20, Naruto had all that he had dreamed of.
Iruka felt tears well in his eyes, tears of pride as Naruto turned back towards the crowd, his red and black coat stirring in the wind, the Hokage hat resting on his spiky blond hair. Iruka saw a faint flash of Minato beside him, and then the Yondaime was gone, leaving the brown-haired man to look into Naruto's nearly identical face.
Arms wrapped around him as Naruto landed beside him, hugging his former teacher tightly. Iruka returned the embrace, a hand landing in the blond hair. "Oh Naruto… I'm so proud of you…"
Naruto's voice carried a smile when he spoke next, his embrace strong yet gentle as he held his father. "It's all thanks to you and your support, Ruka…"
Iruka felt emotion swell in his chest at that old name, and he squeezed the newly named Hokage tighter, tears rolling down his cheeks. They stood this way for some time, and then Naruto spoke softly.
"You can let go now, Ruka… I'm ready." They stepped back from each other, and Naruto gave him a huge grin.
As he turned to head towards Hokage Tower, he turned back to his father.
"Besides, I know you'll always be there to catch me if I fall."
The night passed by slowly, the light fading into darkness until the room was lit by the light bulb in the center of the ceiling. Naruto remained by his father's side all night and through those three days that he was in the hospital, his blue eyes watery and his hand wrapped around Iruka's. He had been through hard things in his life, but nothing in his 30 years of life had prepared him for this. Not even the 10 years of being Hokage could have readied him to say goodbye to the one person that he loved more than the world.
The man had woken a few times in the past two days, a soft smile on his face and love shining in his eyes. They had spoken of old times, and Naruto had laughed with the man that he knew he would always see as his father.
"Iruka…" he murmured quietly, his hand rising to touch the brown hair. "Father…"
Naruto closed his eyes slowly, lowering his head to press his forehead against Iruka's hand, more tears gathering in his eyes. I don't want him to go…
Iruka had been his everything his entire life, and he owed everything that he was to the gentle man. He had been there for him throughout the toughest times of his life, when he had first become a ninja, when he had returned to Konoha, and when he had finally achieved his dream of becoming Hokage. It was too hard to imagine a life without Iruka, without his gentle smile and loving encouragement.
The blond man pushed himself to his feet, going to the window and pushing open the shade to let in the moonlight. There was a soft knock at the door, and then the nurse gently opened the door, smiling softly at her Hokage. She ran a few checks over Iruka, and then looked to the blond man standing by the window.
"Hokage-sama, if I may…"
Naruto turned to look at the small brunette woman, his eyes wet with tears. He nodded slightly to give her permission to speak.
She bowed her head slightly. "He's really lucky to have someone like you, Hokage-sama, who would sit with him for so long."
Just before she left the room she turned and looked at him. "You know….he's only hanging on for you, Naruto-sama."
With that the door was closed.
Naruto blinked in shock, and then looked down, sorrow flooding over his face. He moved forward, sitting beside the bed and reaching for Iruka's hand once more.
Iruka was his everything, he knew that. He also knew, though, that some things were more important, and that he had to let Iruka know that he was ready.
The Hokage raised his head as he heard a soft utterance of his name, his tear-filled blue eyes meeting Iruka's. "Ruka…"
The brown-haired man smiled, raising a hand to gently touch Naruto's cheek. "Hello son…"
Naruto pressed his cheek into the touch, his eyes slipping closed. "Father…"
"You're doing so well, Naruto…" Iruka whispered. "I'm so proud of you…"
The blond shifted, and then climbed up into the bed at Iruka's prompting, feeling warm and safe wrapped in his father's arms. He felt like he was dying inside as Iruka let out a shuddering sigh, closing his eyes.
There was silence for a moment, and then Naruto spoke, his voice cracking and his heart doing the same.
"You can let go now, Daddy…"
Iruka's eyes opened slowly, tears filling them and rolling down his temples. "Naruto…"
Naruto smiled, looking up at his father through the tears rolling down his cheeks. "You can let go. I think I'm ready… to do this on my own now." He sniffled and his tears rolled faster, but his smile never faded. "It's going to be a little scary, without you there to catch me, but I'll be okay now."
Iruka couldn't speak for a moment, biting his lower lip. "Oh Naruto… Naruto, I love you."
Naruto nodded, leaning up to press a kiss to Iruka's forehead. "I love you too, Daddy…"
With that the blond Hokage wrapped his arms around his father, holding him close to his heart.
That was how Sakura found them in the morning, tears still flowing down Naruto's cheeks, Iruka's face relaxed, a small smile on his lips. He had gone peacefully in his sleep, his aches and pains letting him rest for the first time in 15 years.
I love you, Ruka… Daddy…
It was killin' me to see the strongest man I ever knew
Wastin' away to nothin'
In that hospital room
You know he's only hanging on for you
That's what the night nurse said
My voice and heart were breakin'
As I crawled up in his bed
You can let go now, Daddy
You can let go
Your little boy is ready
To do this on my own
It's gonna be a little bit scary
But I want you to know
I'll be okay now, Daddy
You can let go