I hope you enjoy this :) R&R.
Title: One Letter Difference
Rating: K+, death of three ninja
Summary: Death is one letter longer than love and hate. As Jiraiya watches Naruto grow and change with age, he realises to have love, you have to hate, and that as he dies, another life is just beginning.


I could not believe that, once apon a time, I had hated this child.

I could not believe that I had once loathed the wide-eyed child of the fourth Hokage. Not because he was the Kyuubi holder; I hated him but because he was more him than he was her, and I hated him because he should have been more her and less of him.

I had loved the growing, budding baby from the start, even among my teasing towards his parents. I'd loved the fact that Minato had decided to name him after a character in my book - Naruto - and I loved how simply happy Kushina and Minato were.

I was sure I'd never smiled wider in my life when the two appointed me the boy's godfather.

But that love stopped the minute I stepped into one of the many tents set up to support the wounded during the Kyuubi's attack, Minato close behind, and saw the glazed look the once beautiful woman had given me, the way her once glowing green eyes only held emptiness and death. It had stopped the moment I saw the strongest, bravest shinobi in Kohona pause the moment he saw his lover, the pain too strong to mask on his face.

I had held a shimmer of hope that, maybe the love for this child could be repaired, even as the sole surviving member of my genin squad fell to his knees, and hid his face in his hands.

"I am so sorry," Minato had said, and, despite his efforts, his trembling couldn't be hidden.

But any hope of the love for my godchild disappeared quicker even my student's Yellow Flash when a nurse finally brought back the sobbing child.

The boy I had begun to loathe looked like the budding student I had held under my wing for several years, and I hated him for that.

I hated him because there would be nothing to remember Kushina by - not her brillant red hair, or constantly shimmering, michivious green eyes. Just a replication of Minato's own jewel-toned blue eyes and a shock of yellow fuzz on the top of his head.

Absolutely nothing.

I hated the boy even more that night, as Minato selflessly gave his life for the clone that was his son. That, by the time the sun had risen bright in the sky, I had attempted to fall in love with again.

I had, for Minato and Kushina's sake, attempted to love this child like my own. But I couldn't.

"I can't do it, old man," I had said, my voice breaking from my grief. The third Hokage did not object, and merely took the child from me. Naruto hadn't cried the whole time I had held him, the whole time Minato had held him; but the moment he realized now everything he knew would be gone, from his mother's loud, teasing voice and striking looks, to his father's calm and collected voice and his almost constant, knowing smile, and my own deep, bass tone, unruly white hair and aging face, he cried.

I hadn't realised that his hurt, his pain, wouldn't leave just because I did.

My love for the boy had returned the moment I saw him again, the moment I heard his brash, bold personality come out. And I hated myself for thinking every aspect of Kushina had died, as the boy had obviously gotten his personality from his mother.

But, at times, I hated him again, especially when I trained with him for two years, as I saw more of a personality than I once saw, since the boy was growing up.

And, with his maturity, came his changing personality. He no longer was the loud, foolish boy who's looks mimicked his father and his personality rivaled his mothers. He was becoming more like his father, more calm, more collected, more pensive. And I hated him for it.

After noticing the way his hair was growing at the sides, like my former students, I made a point of cutting them both during a spar.

Somehow, he must have known, because the boy never wore his hair the same way around me again. And, for that, I loved him.

But, after staring into the deep blue eyes that rightfully belonged to Minato and seeing nothing but pain and hurt, I hated myself, not the boy. I hated myself for leaving the poor child alone after a mess like that, for leaving him alone.

And I hated my student's student, Kakashi, for becoming the father figure I should have been, the person he should have been looking up to.

As I died, I realised I never did hate Naruto. I merely hated myself, for not being able to be there when he needed me most. I couldn't save Kushina, I couldn't save Minato; I hadn't been able to save my own godchild from the hate and the abuse a village brought on to him.

And, as I died, I knew I had to pay him back somehow. His pain and his suffering, his losses and his gains. I had to pay the growing teen back somehow.

Tale of Naruto Uzumaki... I knew I had done something right. And, with that thought in mind, I was happy.

"Took you long enough, sensei," I heard as I closed my eyes. I couldn't help but smile at the blond-haired, blue-eyed student in front of me, and his beautiful, red-haired lover.

"I was working on a new book," I had said, walking over to the two,"but, it's still in the making, and it will be for a while. You two helped, as did Kakashi."

They seemed puzzled, and Kushina frowned.

"Spill it, you pervert!" She snapped, stomping her foot in front of me. I couldn't help but smile wider, remembering the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy who reflected her personality, but not her looks.

"It's called Tales of Naruto Uzumaki," I'd said.

And, with that, I had died, knowing I'd done the right thing.