A/N: I was cleaning up my dying computer and moving files over to my new one and found the original last chapter to my story. I never posted it because I wanted to keep the storyline open. So, consider this an alternate ending. I have the beginning of another story planned, which involve Naruto growing up with both parents and it's really a sequel to this story. I just wanted to share this last chapter instead of deleting it. I consider it a waste of effort to do so.

I do recall someone leaving a review complaining/pointing out that I followed the story-line. Well, that's FF, I don't know what to tell you. It's my story, my rules. Don't like it? Read something else. I created a life for these two and I stand by my stories. I was going to follow the story line as you can tell by this alternate ending, but I think I'll have more fun creating something else.

Enjoy a flashback into time :) Happy Reading.


~OoOoO~


The wind whipped his face like a million tiny razors. He braved it, unflinching as he held the bundle to this chest. The warmth reminded him that he was human. That he was alive. That all that had come to pass wasn't just a crazy dream he had conjured after an night of too much sake in his old age. There wasn't much more for him to do after stepping down as Hokage. Minato had been the next person to sacrifice his life to the pulls of the village affairs. For the first time in his entire life, Hiruzen had been bored. But that had come to an abrupt end, now that he had resumed his former employment.

He was Hokage once again. Both the Third and Fifth-though the Council decided that it was more prudent to return him as Sandaime, not Godaime.

The bitter reality that his protege had chosen to sacrifice his life made tears prickle in his eyes.

It should have been me, he angrily reminded himself.

He knew Kushina wouldn't have so easily sacrificed her life if that of her son was to be saved by Minato. He was sure that the kyuubi extraction likely took too great a toll on her, and her fate had been already sealed. What energy she had left she had dedicated to securing her son's safety. In the end, both Minato and Kushina died protecting what they had both sworn and cherished. The village and their offspring.

There had been whispers. Some long-suspected the Leaf had harbored the kyuubi. Some had even suspected that Kushina was the bearer, and that Minato had merely married her out of duty. The first didn't upset Hiruzen, but the second wave of gossip made his blood boil. Anyone that knew Minato and Kushina quickly realized that there was no duty in their marriage, only love and happiness. Hiruzen had wished he could have made the effort in his marriage, perhaps Biwako would have still been alive. Though, to have seen this, it would have devastated her to no end.

Then there came the rumors about the new kyuubi. The Council had nearly agreed on killing the child. Hiruzen had seethingly told them that if they laid as much as a finger on the boy, he would commit rebellion. The boy was a hero-a savior to the village.

But what about the masked intruder that unleashed it in the first place? He'll come back, surely enough? they had challenged him.

Are we sure it's a he? And I could no longer sense that tainted chakra when the kyuubi was sealed by the Yondaime, he had spat back.

In the end, there had been too much devastation in the village. The elders had allowed Hiruzen to keep the infant safe and return to his former post. But, the awed whispers about Minato's child soon died off, his parentage almost erased from their memories. Soon, resentment surface, most likely poorly directed anger from the loss of the loved ones to the Nine Tails' wrath. The real blame-Hiruzen knew-should have been directed at the person who had infiltrated the village.

Madara. It had to be. Hiruzen found a briefly scrawled note by Minato on the wall in the mansion with his concerns regarding the person who tore the demon from Kushina's prison. Minato was a rational person, and Hiruzen trusted him.

There was also a second part of that note, one that told Hiruzen that, even then, Minato had been intent on his future actions.

"Please protect our son. Naruto. He will be a hero, but not on our accord. I want him to remembered as the savior of this village. Not the Hokage's son."

Hiruzen would hold that promise dear to him until the day his miserable solitary life ended.

Her heard Asuma behind him as the Hokage's eyes sought to focus between the tears. The headstones were blurred so that the letters formed one jumbled word. The tiny swaddled infant in his arms squirmed, as if he could feel Hiruzen's thoughts. The older man looked down at the child, fondness spanning his features. Blonde hair like his father's. Blue eyes like that were a mixture both parents. Impatience like his mother. The infant blinked at him, alternating between smiling and crying. The seal emblazoned on his chubby stomach and the fine whiskered on his face was a reminder of Hiruzen's failure.

Why did he keep coming back to that?

He remembered the tears he shed when Kushina announced her pregnancy. He had looked forward to seeing his foster daughter and her family happy. She deserved that much. He so badly wanted to settle down an be a codger-if simply to say he earned it.

Now those dreams were long gone, and orphaned child left in their place.

Asuma cleared his throat. Hiruzen quickly tried to blink away the tears. The younger Hiruzen's voice had become a deep baritone. "I'm leaving, Father."

Hiruzen closed his eyes. He had known this would come to pass, as his son was also mourning in his own way. "Where will you go, Asuma?"

"I don't know. Away from here. Anywhere but here," he frowned, now standing beside his father, glancing between the two fresh graves and the blonde child in Hiruzen's arms. The chakra blades were at his side now, Kushina having happily given them to him on his last birthday. He hadn't put them down since, not proficiently deadly with them-maybe more so than Kushina had ever been.

They are yours now. They have always been yours. I was just keeping them for when you were ready, she had told him. Asuma had never felt so proud as when Kushina gave him those familiy relics. He finally felt like an adult. Like a shinobi. Soon, he would surpass his father and earn the recognition he so badly craved.

"Would you change your mind if I begged?" Hiruzen spoke softly.

"You would only beg because you have no one else," Asuma angrily replied, somewhat jarred by his father's words.

Hiruzen knew his son blamed him for Kushina's death. She was the closest thing he had to a sibling, and she filled the void of his busy father during his childhood. She praised him when Hiruzen couldn't. She encouraged him when Hiruzen wouldn't. "I would beg because you are my son."

"That never interested you before." His reply was waspish, and full of poorly concealed hurt.

"You are wrong. I had a duty, someday you will underand that-" Hiruzen began, weariness enfolding him as the child began to wriggle in his arms.

"Your duty should have been to your family. To protect us!" Asuma's voice rose. Naruto's crying forced him to calm himself. "Now look at what has happened."

Hiruzen stared at the mounded dirt on Kushina's grave, his eyes watering at the truth behind his son's words. Still, Asuma was too young to truly comprehend the duties laid out for a Hokage, "Someday, Asuma. Someday."

Someday you will understand.

"Whatever," the young man muttered under his breath, looking away briefly as a finger flicked at something on his cheek. "I'm leaving father."

"That is your decision?"

"That is my decision." He glanced at Naruto, his eyes softening for a moment, "He looks like her. You better take good care of that kid. He's going to need it."

Hiruzen said nothing, his throat constricting from all the words he wanted to tell his son, but couldn't. He blamed himself, more than anyone, for allowing Konoha to be in possession of the Nine-Tails. Had the beast died with Mito, Kushina and Minato would be parents to the healthy baby boy. Had the beast died, they would be holding their son in the Hokage Manor right now. Hiruzen turned and watched Asuma leave, his son's hands shoved deeply in his pockets. It was a habit he got from Kushina.

The dark-haired shinobi turned, one last time, to look at his father. Hiruzen could see the tears in his son's eyes, his own blurred by his watery regret. In a flash, Asuma was gone, the Hokage unsure if he'd ever see his son again.

"Someday, Asuma...someday you'll understand my sacrifice," he spoke to the wind. Naruto giggled in his arms, as if he found something quite entertaining. Hiruzen held the baby close, silently vowing to protect Naruto with his life. He may have failed Kushina and Minato once, but he would not allow that to happen again.

"Naruto, you have big shoes to fill," he whispered, smiling at the child—the living remnant of a happier time in his life. "Your mother was a spitfire, and your father the best damned Hokage this village has ever seen." He stroked the baby's downy blonde hair. He looked at the Hokage Monument, which was in repair from the damages sustained to the village. What other faces would grace that stony bluff? Naruto cooed more, bright blue eyes blinking at Hiruzen.

"I wonder...what does the future hold for you, my boy?"