Twin1: Just obligatory Minato/Naruto cuteness. Rated for bullying. Please review?
Are You an Angel?
The tiny creature ran through the streets, blinded by tears. His thin little legs pumped furiously, working desperately to get him away.
Even dirty, his blonde hair did nothing to aid him in his attempt at hiding. He skidded around a corner, into an alley, overbalancing as he did so and ending up on the ground with a graze down the entire length of his left leg and rubbish all over him – he'd crashed into a trash can.
The little boy, if a boy that young could be that filthy and have such a wild, desperate look in his eyes, didn't try to get up: just curled up on the ground where he'd fallen, a hand reaching down to hold his bleeding leg and the tears finally spilling over, running down his cheeks noisily.
"Well, well, well." The child flinched and curled into a tighter ball. He didn't want to face the big, scary people who had been chasing him. They were big, but not grown-ups – grown-ups only chased him when they were drunk. No, these were just big, big kids.
There were three of them. They were all boys, too, and the child curled on the ground sobbed against the cold concrete street, cringing as they got closer. He had hoped he'd lost them, but that was nearly impossible for a three-and-a-half year old.
He didn't know why no-one seemed to like him. Why everyone always looked at him like he was something ugly that smelled bad and stained the furniture.
The little boy's young mind couldn't comprehend why the village that was his home universally hated him. He had no way of understanding why exactly his guardian-of-the-month, Suki-san, had locked him outside again, or why this group of boys was chasing him, eager to mar his soft young body with a bruise or two.
"Now, lookie here," sneered one of the three boys as they approached him. The child flinched as three shadows fell over him, his tears thickening. "You're right where you belong now, aren't you? In the garbage!"
"Yeah! Monsters like you belong in the gutter, in the trash!" snarled another of the boys, nudging the three year old roughly with a sandaled foot.
The little one whimpered as the third boy bent down and grabbed him by the collar, hoisting him aloft easily. He didn't weigh much, after all. He began to choke, his air cut off by the strangle-hold on his shirt as he was lifted until he was eye-to-eye with his tormenter.
"You see this, Freak?" the boy demanded, jerking the thumb on his free hand at a metal plate on his forehead. "That's a hitai-ate. You know what it means?"
"Of course he doesn't. He's a monster. Monsters don't know nothin'," another of the boys snorted.
"It means we're ninja!" the boy who had nudged the child before put in. "We're genin now. Real ninja, you know. And you know what that means?"
The boy managed to shake his head, his blue eyes wide with fear and glassy with tears. In fairness, he made a pretty nasty sight, smeared with blood, rotting food, tears and snot. The boy holding him aloft shook him.
"It means it's our job to protect the village from scum like you!" he crowed.
The child's breath was coming in quick gasps, clutching desperately at his throat and squirming. He was growing near-frantic with the need to breathe. To his relief, the older boy dropped him.
The child landed with a sickening crack and a cry of pain, but at least he could breathe.
"Wh... what are you g-going to do to me?" he sobbed, not trying to run anymore. He was too tired, and now he hurt. He just wanted this to be over with.
"What are we going to do?" repeated one of his tormenters laughingly. "You really want to know?"
"I think we should punish him for speaking!" suggested another of them. "Demons are not to talk to us normal people, after all."
"Yeah!" the other two agreed. Their spiteful faces turned back to the shivering child who cowered on the ground before them.
The toddler squeezed his eyes shut, knowing that it was no good screaming for help. No-one ever came.
They only managed to land two solid punches on his small frame before something happened. Through his tightly closed eyes, the child caught a flash of blue, a flicker in the air. He heard a lingering scream from one of the older boys, and cracked open his baby blues just in time to see the three of them running away as fast as their little genin legs could scurry.
Blocking the view of their flight slightly was another figure, silhouetted by the light seeping into the alley, watching the genin run away.
The child shrank into himself. This person was a grown-up, and the little boy could tell he was angry. Angry was bad. Angry usually meant they lashed out, even if he hadn't done anything except walk past at the wrong moment.
His eyes flinched shut again as the man turned and looked back down at the three year old. The child let out a pathetic whimper when he heard clothing rustle and sensed the man kneel next to him.
"Naruto?" the man said softly.
The boy stopped mid-sob. His eyes cracked open a millimetre, slitted as if he expected to find a fist heading towards his nose at high speeds. Even so, curiosity forced him to take in this stranger.
He called me Naruto... no-one calls me Naruto...
"Naruto? Is that your name?" the man pressed lightly. "It is your name, right?"
The little blonde opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He swallowed and tried again, his words coming out in a painful rasp.
"N... no-one calls me that..." he whispered. "How do... how do you know my name?"
He couldn't see the man's face: the light was all wrong for it. He could only make out the vague outline of his features, but he seemed concerned and a little angry by this news.
"I... I just know who you are," he said softly. "Naruto, what happened to you?"
Naruto winced as he felt the stranger reach out and touch him, but to his surprise he just lifted him with gentle hands and began to clear the rubbish and filth off him carefully.
The little blonde stared up at his saviour, who had produced a handkerchief from somewhere and was now wiping the various fluids off his face. This man had brilliant blonde hair too, and tanned skin. His eyes were a striking blue, and his features were warm and handsome, but angular and feline. He wore a long white coat with red flames licking the hems.
"There," the strange person smiled after a few more minutes. He dropped his soiled handkerchief onto the pile of rubbish that Naruto had until recently been buried under and wiped his hands on his pants. "Good as new." The adult reached out for the child he had found.
"Are you an angel?" Naruto blurted as he was hoisted into the air. He ended up sitting against the man's strong chest, face-to-face with a suddenly surprised adult.
"Angel?" the man repeated, shaking his blonde hair in bewilderment, before breaking into a grin. "Now, why would you think that?"
"I heard the big kids talking about 'em a while back," Naruto chattered. "They said that angels came when you were in real big trouble and looked after you, and that they had gold hair and white clothes. You have gold hair and white clothes, so... are you an angel? The other kids said that you wouldn't come for me – that you wouldn't wanna help me."
The man looked at him a little sadly. "No, Naruto," he said softly. "No, I'm not an angel."
Naruto's face, instead of falling, cleared of worry. It was as if a mystery was explained away; a problem resolved. In this case, the problem that an angel would never come to help Naruto, the concern that this particular angel was sadly confused.
"Then who are you?" the child queried. The man shook his head as if to shake away his sad thoughts and gave a weak smile.
"Who, me? Who knows?"
"Do you live here?" Naruto questioned. "In the village? I haven't seen you before."
"I used to," the stranger said quietly. "I'm just visiting. You can call me Da... you can call me Minato."
"Min-a-to," Naruto sounded out. Then he smiled. "I like it."
Minato chuckled, his arms tightening around the child compulsively. "How long have those boys been picking on you?" he asked.
Naruto shrugged. "Dunno. Everyone does it," he said matter-of-factly. Minato blinked, and then looked away, his jaw working as he swallowed.
"I... see," he said with a forced calm. "Oh, Naruto... I'm so sorry."
"Huh?" Naruto blinked at the unhappy person. "Don't say sorry, mister. You didn't do nothing."
Minato chuckled again. "Yeah," he said sadly. "I didn't do nothing... hey! Why don't we go get some ramen? Are you hungry?"
"Yes," Naruto said instantly, then added, "What's ramen?"
Minato gasped and began to walk down the street quickly. "Only the most awesome food in the universe!" he declared. "You have never had ramen? Child, you have been horrifically deprived! We must fix this immediately!"
Naruto giggled and found himself whisked though the village until they reached a tiny little shop. He couldn't read the name, but whatever they were cooking smelt good! Minato settled on a stool and planted Naruto in his lap, ordering two bowls of miso ramen and informing Naruto that it was his favourite flavour.
Naruto took one sip of the brothy noodle soup that was placed before him and loudly declared that this was his favourite flavour too.
"Hold up," chuckled Minato, "Shouldn't you try the other flavours first, before you decide?"
"No! This is my favourite!" Naruto insisted, trying to shovel the noodles into his mouth with his fingers and coming away with nothing but burnt fingers. "Ow!"
"Here," Minato laughed outright, lifting a pair of chopsticks. "Here, use these, Naruto. This is how you hold them, see?" He arranged Naruto's small fingers around the twin wood sticks and coached the child through their use.
It took a while, but soon Naruto was managing to sort of kinda get the noodles from his bowl to his mouth with only a little aid from his hands. Minato was wearing a smile, as if he was watching a historical event or a prodigy's first steps into his chosen field. As if he'd just stumbled across an invaluable treasure that he was determined to savour.
He didn't even notice the excess broth and noodles slipping down to stain his white coat.
"You're right!" Naruto declared happily. "This is the best food ever! It's AWESOME!!"
Minato laughed again and gently eased the child onto the stool next to him so that he could dig into his own meal. "Glad you think so, Naruto," he said with his mouth full. Naruto, who was in a similar situation, grinned up at his companion, his cheeks bulging out with the amount of noodles he'd somehow crammed past his teeth.
"So," Minato said, stirring his ramen with his chopsticks, "Tell me about yourself. Do you have a favourite colour?"
"Orange!" Naruto babbled excitedly. "Yeah, orange is soo cool!"
Minato continued to ask questions, learning all about this cute little bundle of sunshine.
A flicker on the edge of his senses made Minato stop right in the middle of a sentence. He froze for a second, then bowed his head, his mouth curving in a slightly bitter smile.
"Hmph. So he's finally here," he said quietly. "It sure took him long enough."
Naruto blinked up at him. "Huh? What are you talking about?" he asked. Minato smiled down at him again, but didn't reply.
"Naruto," he said instead, "You never let go of that dream of yours, okay? I believe in you – I think you can do it."
Naruto's face lit up. "You really do?" he squealed. Minato nodded seriously.
"Yes," he said. "I do. No matter what anyone says, know that you can do it. And Naruto-" He broke off, then continued almost desperately. "You won't forget me, right? Please, Naruto, please... remember me."
Naruto tilted his head. "Minato, you're scaring me," he said unhappily. "Why would I forget you? I like you."
Warmth swelled in Minato's heart at the words, and his smile turned gentle and wistful. "Yeah," he said quietly. "I love you, too."
Just then, a spiral of smoke announced the arrival of a ninja. Naruto spun on his stool to see one of those white-clad men that helped him sometimes.
"ANBU-san!" he shouted. The ANBU seemed to look him up and down, then sigh with relief.
"You're alright," he sighed.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. I'm fine, ANBU-san, we were just eating, weren't we, Min-" He cut himself off, having turned back around to see Minato's stool empty. "What?" Naruto whispered. "I don't... where is he?"
"Naruto, come with me," the ANBU said calmly. "You look like you've been in a fight. Let me take you to the hospital, okay?"
Without waiting for an answer, the ANBU reached out and plucked the boy off his stool, holding him carefully. He was about to toss a few notes onto the counter to pay for the meal, but he noticed several bills tucked under Naruto's bowl and frowned. Someone had already payed...
The man shrugged it off and began to carry the child away, highly amused when Naruto fell asleep, lulled by his bearer's movements. His silver hair glinted in the sunlight, as he wasn't wearing his cloak (it was hot out) and he surveyed the world through his mask with one grey eye (the other was covered by his hitai-ate). He was only seventeen, but he was good at his job.
Not good enough to get out of guarding the Kyuubi host, though. Not that he'd try to.
"Minato-sensei," chuckled the ANBU, "Can you see your son now? He's so full of hopes and dreams and life... I wonder, can you see him, wherever you are?"
An invisible man, a tall, tanned blonde wearing a long white cloak bearing the legend 'Yondaime Hokage' and several fresh ramen stains leant against a nearby fence and watched his once-student carry his sleeping son away.
"Yes, Kakashi," he smiled, "I can see him. And I have had my one day with him. The rest, I'll leave up to you."
There were tears in his intangible eyes as he turned and walked away, before a wind caught him up and swept him into nothingness.