XV: Almost Like a Son

Jiraiya never had children. But then again, he did have Minato, and that was enough.

1. Minato is probably better than any child of his could've been.
It's an awful thing to say, but almost certainly true. He would be forever comparing his kid to Minato, and finding Minato the better. He imagines that it would have been even worse than Sensei constantly comparing him to Orochimaru, and, like him, he wouldn't have even realised what he was doing. It's better that no child has to suffer that (again).

2. He had faith in him from the beginning.
Respect was something you earned; faith was a gift. Everyone respected Jiraiya eventually. No one had faith in him like Minato did.

3. He kept him sane.
When his own team fell apart, when Jiraiya could have spiralled so deep into bitterness and self-hatred that there was no hope of getting out again - Minato was there, with his dumb smile, asking his sensei what they were going to learn today.

4. When his teammates died, Minato turned to him.
Jiraiya's team had fragmented in an entirely different way, and he wasn't sure how to comfort him. But he stuck around anyway, and never felt as proud of himself as when he found that just his presence was a help.

5. Jiraiya didn't have a chance to make his own family.
At least, he thought not, until Minato started introducing him as "practically my dad" and suggesting that he would be the most embarrassing grandfather ever, and he realised that he had.

6. Minato always behaved like a kid.
Even though he was by far the best of his team, at the same time, he was the goofiest. He was the one who dragged everyone out for food to celebrate a mission, or a birthday, or to check out the festival. He was the reason they had fun.

7. He made Jiraiya feel like part of a family.
Komuko and Hirata were lovely kids, really. But they had their own homes to return to, and they didn't reach out for him like Minato did.

8. No one had ever done that before.
Jiraiya doesn't remember his own family, not really, and his own team might have been close (back then), but Sarutobi-sensei had his sons and wife, Orochimaru was too private and reserved, and Tsunade was a Senju, practically royalty, and that distance was always too much for Jiraiya to handle. Minato made an effort to close the difference between them... just because he wanted to.

9. Minato was a genius.
And who wouldn't be proud of training a stable one of those?

10. He was far greater than him.
Yet he still kept coming to Jiraiya for approval, even when he expected to be the last thing on his student's mind. ("What do you think of Shioko for a girl, Sensei? I haven't asked Kushina yet; I wanted to hear what you'd say first - you're good with names!")

11. Jiraiya became famous for being a teacher.
Not for all the terrible things he'd done in the wars, or for his own power, or for his teammates. He became famous as the man who helped the Yondaime become who he was. If he has to be remembered forever, then that's how he wants it to be.

12. He was first choice to be Naruto's godfather.
Not Sarutobi-sensei. Not any of Minato's or Kushina's friends. Not even Kakashi or Rin. Him.

13. He's the one who taught Minato how to be a father.
When Kushina became pregnant, Jiraiya asked Minato if he was nervous. But he just laughed and said, "Why should I be? I have your example to work from, Sensei!"

14. It's one of the few things Jiraiya thinks he's succeeded at.
Even though Minato never got a chance to become a father - Jiraiya did well. He knows he did.

15. He just doesn't know how.
And that, maybe, is the most magical thing about it. Jiraiya was just himself. He didn't do anything special - and yet, he made himself special to this kid. He's not a superstitious man, not really, but... that's the sort of thing that feels like it was meant to be.

16. Jiraiya has only wanted to die once.
It was an unbelievably selfish thought, and with all his responsibilities, it didn't last. But to his dying day he will remember the feeling of knowing his student (son) was dead; will remember watching his funeral from the Hokage Monument because he couldn't see it up close (you were mine to protect and I failed, I failed, why are you dead when it should be me, when it deserves to be me, why why WHY) without wanting to scream.

17. Nothing hurt as much as Minato's death did.
Nothing has, and nothing will. The pain doesn't fade with time, only disguises itself - the wounds are still as raw as the day they were made. If Jiraiya could have loved any kid more than Minato, he's glad he didn't, because he surely couldn't survive anything worse than this.

18. Minato made him believe.
Jiraiya had almost given up on peace. But then he watched Minato walk out of a war almost unharmed, a war that he had half-won by himself, and he listened to him promise: "I'll stop this, Sensei. I won't let a war like this happen again. I won't let people be hurt like this again." And Jiraiya believed every single word of it.

19. He was supposed to be Jiraiya's successor.
In the end, he became someone else altogether - far more brilliant, courageous, successful, and strong (and about as attractive) as his teacher, and Jiraiya thinks that was the best possible ending to their story.

20. Most importantly, Jiraiya somehow made him happy.
Even dying for Konoha he was happy, the altruistic little bastard. Sensei or father, dead or alive, he couldn't ask for anything more than that.

A/N: I think it's safe to say that you can ignore any and all promises I make in regards to updating this. That said... I made myself sit down and finish this one and it worked! Muahaha!

All joking aside, I'm not happy with the order here, but I've spent a while playing with it without much improvement - I figured at this point I should probably just put it out there. Comments, as always, are loved.