Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. Just my imagination.
Uzumaki Naruto was standing in front of the huge prison containing the nine-tailed fox inside of his mind. The golden-metallic bars didn't budge in the slightest while the creature on the other side practically latched itself onto them, grinning almost maniacally with its sharp canines protruding from its feral mouth. The demon already wanted to laugh, it was only mere seconds away from freedom and its long-awaited revenge against all and everything, especially its container who had annoyed it to no end for full sixteen years already. Just a little bit closer… The fox's nostrils couldn't wait to inhale the sweet almost-forgotten scent of fresh air and to feel dirty soil beneath its paws unlike the flat unknown surface under that thin layer of water it was forced to stand on for so long. Fortunately for the beast Naruto made no move to stop himself and already reached out for the paper of the seal with his hand. At the contact between flesh and tissue the giant fox readied himself, hind legs bend to jump out the moment the n-times damned seal would be torn off.
And then the nine-tailed fox's dream seemingly shattered into a thousand pieces when another blonde, even more cunning than that stupid brat it had been forced to house in, grabbed its salvation's arm and tore the boy away from the small piece of art locking the demon away. It growled, remembering that face only too well.
"The Yondaime… Hokage…" Naruto muttered, too confused to really make any sense of the situation and just staring. The boy thought that he might be hallucinating, though that idea quickly shattered itself when said ghost started to speak.
"The seal is set so that if eight tails are released, I'll appear within your consciousness. I didn't want that to happen… I never wanted to see you again… Kyuubi." The Yondaime explained in a tone that seemed carefully selected, as if he had prepared that short speech long ago, while he still held onto the large unmoving weight that hung loosely from his arm. The man's face was turned downward, expression illegible. Naruto on the other hand tried to regain at least some of his composure, staring at the face he had always admired at the Hokage monument and trying to form a word, any word, though nothing happened, his mouth still agape and eyes wide. The older man seemed to notice the younger's frozen brain-state and simply decided to continue talking, the sixteen-year-old's attention was so transfixed at him that he knew the boy would listen intently, even if he might not get everything he would say.
"But… I looked forward to seeing how my son had grown… so I guess you could call it even." The former Hokage carried on, looking at the individual so similar to himself and feeling a little bit concerned at the lack of response from him.
"Yondaime Hokage! Come here! I'll rip you to shreds!" The almighty Kyuubi growled, outraged, grinding at its prison from the inside with its claws, only one of its angry blood-red eyes visible through the bars.
Minato sighed, the fox just couldn't shut up. What was worse, that monster actually made the mood worse and tried to seduce his son into setting it free. No way in hell would he allow that to happen. So, after placing Naruto's feet on the floor he decided to lighten the atmosphere, trying to put the boy in front of him at ease. This situation probably was more than the obviously disoriented boy could cope with at the moment anyway.
"Saying you're going to rip me to shreds isn't going to make me come closer. Just the opposite, right, Naruto?" After addressing his son, said young man seemed to be even more confused as before. The Yondaime quickly wondered if he had said something wrong when Naruto's mouth suddenly managed to produce words.
"…Naruto…? That's my name. How…?" Ok, that wasn't as productive as the older one had thought it would be, but at least a start. At first Minato was confused that his own son would be so… baffled by the fact that he knew his name. That confusion manifested itself in an unintelligent "Huh!" before something inside the genius' brain clicked. And the fact that the boy hadn't once called him something akin to 'father' in those… thirty seconds, maybe, and only stared at him with that creepy mix of astonishment and amazement, albeit clouded strongly by his puzzlement that reminded him a very slight bit of his fangirls from all those years ago, made him realize something that made him quite displeased. Of course none of that was shown on his face, for his son didn't seem to be able to comprehend much at the moment anyway.
"…'Cause I gave you that name, of course. You're my heir, after all."
His son didn't know who his family was. The fact that the poor boy had lost his whole family at his birth, living as an orphan, was already awful enough. But that no one, not even Kakashi, his own student he had been so close to after Uchiha Obito's death, had ever told his son who his parents had been… a little something would have been enough, just to relieve the boy that he had been a planned child, that his parents had loved him, and still loved for that matter, though nobody could've known that…
Minato had been able to see some parts of some events in Naruto's life, though those had been mostly those in which his son's emotions boiled over. Those times had been the day the boy had received his headband from Iruka, for example. Or the day he had learned the Rasengan. The former Hokage had frowned at the usage of both hands to form the technique, but had made a mental happy dance anyways. He had been so proud that day and wished so much for his bundle of joy to look into a mirror that very moment, to finally see the grinning face of his one and only son. Since the small part of his soul that was connected to Naruto's mind by his chakra was locked away in the very depths, he had never had the pleasure to really see his son, always seeing the outside world from the boy's field of vision, except for the day he had been born. That always made Minato sad, which made him think about the probably most disastrous scene he had ever been forced to witness. Jiraiya's death. The hurt Minato had felt that day was so excruciating, and the anger he had felt that nobody had really tried to comfort him right then in that office… And all the times he had seen his son being stared at by some angry villagers, sometimes even abused… Nobody had cared for the child back then, absolutely no one, and it had taken Naruto years of hard work and proving himself to even make friends, something that normal children didn't have to fight for so much. He had wondered numerous times already what would have been if the blasted Kyuubi hadn't attacked, if he hadn't been forced to seal that monster inside of his innocent new-born son, if this remarkable young man's parents hadn't had to die.
Naruto used exactly that moment to interrupt his father's musings with another befuddled and so innocent question that, had Minato been a more sentimental person, he would've found cute.
"Heir? Then… You mean…?"
Somehow Minato thought that the hesitant, almost stuttering tone of his son didn't fit the bubbly personality he had been able to witness before. He had actually reminded him a lot of Kushina…
After another loud growl from the annoying fox-demon Minato thought it was finally time to 'reveal' Naruto's parentage, relishing in the feeling of that one special word rolling of his tongue.
"Yeah! Just what I said. You're my son."
The Namikaze smiled at him, a bit worried when the boy's expression didn't change at first, but then Naruto started to smile and the boy's eyes visibly watered, slowly starting to laugh as the Kyuubi made his contempt of the Yondaime known again. Minato wanted to frown, but stopped himself, thinking that the damn fox had annoyed him and messed with their second and definitely last father-son-bonding way too much.
"He sure is a noisy one, isn't he…? Let's go talk somewhere else."
With a snap of his fingers father and son both ended up in a completely white space, a place Minato knew only too well. When he hadn't been able to see through Naruto's eyes, he somehow had had to stare at this… emptiness… sometimes the older blonde wondered how he had managed not go to crazy as of yet.
Naruto rubbed at his eyes with his sleeve while his father tried to explain something he wasn't too fond of himself.
"I guess the Sandaime didn't tell you anything. He probably wanted to keep everything about the fox a secret. If people knew you were my son, there might be trouble." Saying that, Minato thought that the Sandaime probably was the only person out there that had cared for his son so much that with saying nothing about him or Kushina being his parents he had actually helped to keep him safe. But that had been the past, Naruto was almost an adult now, definitely able to defend himself if possible and he had no doubt that if the moronic Tsuchikage thought assassinating the boy that looked so much like him, the Yellow Flash, would be a good idea, the smaller blonde would not only kick that old coot's ass, but also pummel the whole Iwa army into oblivion.
He then apologized, feeling guilty, wanting nothing more than to finally hug his son and tell him how he loved him, how he hadn't wanted this whole mess to begin with…
Minato's eyes widened a little bit, he had never heard that word directed at him and remembered the time when Kushina had been pregnant, her huge belly seemingly always in her way. He couldn't wait to hear that exact word uttered from the infant that he had known had grown inside of her. Kushina had chastised him for his 'sissy behavior' but he had caught her only two hours afterwards talking to their baby, saying how she would love to hear him call her 'Mommy!' and that 'Daddy!' would come second-ttebane!
Somehow the surprisingly lightening-fast punch to his mid-section threw him out of his musings. Whoa, that hurt… but I definitely deserved that one…
"Why did you seal the fox inside your own son! Do you know how much trouble it's caused me! I don't know whether I'm happy or pissed off!"
This screamed message was underlined by a river of tears, wild arm gesturing and a bit quieter sobbing, making the father stare at his son, feeling even guiltier than before. His plan A to just say 'Hey, I'm the guy who sealed that fox inside you and, oh!, I'm also kind of your father! Now we're cool?' just went down the drain. Minato had known that after all of that suffering there would be something like a… result. That it wouldn't be very positive was clear too, but he hadn't anticipated for the boy to cry. He hadn't wanted that. Angry, that he could deal with. He had to deal with that emotion turned towards him on almost every mission because he had killed so many people, who were related to even more other people, who were pissed because of the first fact. But sad and especially crying was something he didn't feel very comfortable with. It was something that had made him depressed and seeing that grief on his son's face made his stomach turn. He decided to just go with plan B: 'Distancing himself, apologizing, explaining the situation as best he could and hoping he would somehow understand.'
But before Minato could apologize to his heir, there was something he had to know.
"Naruto… How old are you now?"
This one question was quite important. It was to estimate the time his chakra had been preserved inside his son's system and to more or less calculate how much of it he had left. He needed to constantly use a very wee bit of chakra to keep his soul still attached to Naruto, since usually souls with their own chakra weren't supposed to still stay in a body, especially if it was another one than the original. The age also told him how long his son had suffered… giving him a little insight on how much irreparable damage he had caused with his actions.
The answer being sixteen made the former Hokage frown slightly, that was a bit longer than he had anticipated, there wouldn't be much more time… he had to hurry, relaying him the crucial information he had gained all those years ago, but there would still be some time to at least formulate a short apology that would never be enough to make up for all the trouble caused.
"Sixteen, eh? It… Must have been hard… Naruto. I'm sorry… I've done nothing but cause trouble for you… So maybe I shouldn't try to act like your father now when I'm apologizing…"
His gaze kept on the floor, carefully avoiding Naruto's tear-stained face, he apologized, hoping that it would at least calm his son down so much that he would hear him out until the end, that he wouldn't forget anything important being said. Minato knew that if he glanced at him his resolve would crumble and do something he might regret. Just because Naruto was his son didn't mean that he would be very fond of something endearing like a hug. He was scared that if he did that Naruto would kind of… chicken out or get mad, since he was the man who sealed that demon inside of him, being his father or not…
So when the younger blonde lifted his head a bit and lowered his tear- and snot-filled sleeve, opening his mouth a little, Minato was surprised to hear the words tumble out of his mouth.
"I'm the son of the Yondaime Hokage… So I can deal." Naruto grumbled with a pout on his face, probably feeling a bit stupid and definitely still annoyed. The Namikaze wanted to sweatdrop, though he had no time to do anymore chit-chat. Now came the hard part of explaining that gruesome day. He already had a plan inside of his mind, one that he had revised over and over all of those past sixteen years, but decided in the end that something improvised might be better.
"The reason I sealed half the fox's chakra inside you is because I believed you could use it… Because you're my son."
Naruto's facial expression was one of shock again and Minato wondered if that was a slight blush across his son's cheeks, but there was no time to ponder over that or let Naruto relish in those father-son-moments because he knew that maybe it would be better not to get too close in this short time. They would never see each other again, even after death, since Minato was forced to endure eternity in the Shinigami's stomach while both Naruto and Kushina would go… somewhere else he wasn't really sure of. Maybe that was the best, for the both of them. He definitely didn't want his son to feel so much grief again, especially not if he himself was the cause to it. So he carried on…
"And there's another reason, too… When the fox attacked sixteen years ago I realized something."
An expression of suspicion manifested itself on his son's face, telling Minato to go on and to say that he had his complete attention.
"There was someone controlling the fox when it attacked the village. A very powerful ninja. And without some sort of special power there would be no way to fight him. I believe he'll attack the village again." The former Hokage finished, seeing some kind of shock and horror cross Naruto's face until his shoulders sagged at the end.
"Konoha… Has already been destroyed…" He said, the tone of his voice indicating that he felt like he had failed. Minato, although knowing that time was scarce at this very moment, decided to relieve some tension from his son.
"Yeah… I saw… From inside you." He couldn't really leave the sadness out of his voice saying that particular sentence.
And after Naruto's almost indignant outburst of "You saw…!" Minato added that he knew about Jiraiya, too. It's ok, nobody blames you, I don't blame you. He desperately hoped that the underlying message came across, but since the boy made an understanding facial expression and didn't waste time afterwards to ask whether or not Pein had been the one who had used the fox to attack the village before. That somehow made things a lot easier for the older blonde.
"No… Not him…" Minato murmured, loud enough for his son to hear and making a face of contempt as he described the delinquent.
"A member of Akatsuki. The one with the mask."
He had seen that bastard back then, on the night sixteen years ago that had ended up with him giving his soul to the Shinigami, his wife dying and his innocent son burdened with that fox-demon, and a half-destroyed Konoha along the way. And seeing Naruto's face of a lot of shock and a bit of anger slowly mixing in, he knew his son thought the same.
"Back then… He saw through everything I did… He's no ordinary ninja… Pein's probably being used by him." Minato said, averting his eyes. He felt guilty, had he only been stronger, all of this wouldn't have happened. Naruto would've been able to have a… happier childhood. For that thing alone Minato would kill all of those creeps from the deepest corner of the Shinigami's stomach if he could. If those guys ever ended up there too, he would make sure they would suffer… dearly…
"No! Pein hates Konoha! His own village was destroyed the same way!" Naruto exclaimed, clearly outraged and Minato wanted to sigh. He tried to calm his son down again, seeing his anger boiling again.
"That's right… And he's being used because of that."
The boy needed to understand that hatred led to destruction in such a way. That hatred breeds war and people full of it were easily influenced by others. It was a vicious circle that seemed to never end. Minato then proceeded to tell his son about the conclusions he had drawn while being alive, that as long as that ninja system existed there would be no real peace because as long as love existed there would be hatred controlling the ninjas, creating such pitiful creatures like Pein. Solemnly he explained his thoughts and understanding and told him that Jiraiya had entrusted him with the answer to the end of that dreadful hatred.
"But I can't forgive Pein… I can't!" Naruto's hurt expression made his father sad and the older felt the same way. He nodded in understanding, already feeling his chakra leaving his incorporal body more rapidly than he had imagined at first. Moving his eyes away from his son he noticed that his peripheral vision started to diminish slightly and while thinking about that situation he was in at the moment he felt himself feel lighter somehow… he probably didn't have more than five minutes left at that rate.
"…Tell me… What should I do?" Naruto asked, desperation layered thick in his voice and with such a haunted look in his eyes… Minato wanted to say something encouraging, but in the end that would make his son only delusional. There was simply no way around the truth, Naruto would have to deal with that by himself. So after carefully choosing the best words…
"You have to find the answer yourself. I don't know it."
That somewhat made Naruto have a fit, exasperation and confusion more than evident.
"But if you and that pervy sage couldn't do it, how can I! That's not fair! I'm stupid, and I'm not a great ninja! And-"
The former Hokage decided that this rant went on enough. He cursed himself mentally. Was that really such a good idea? It probably wasn't, it would bring more pain to not only him, but Naruto, too. He knew that by more or less creating a father-son-bond that would be broken in no more than three minutes anyways he would hurt them both. But that action needed to be done. He had never really touched his son ever before, only that one time just after the boy's birth, and when he had hurled him away from the Kyuubi's prison moments before. He would never be able to show his son some affection ever again, and although he knew that it would break his heart in the end, he reached out with his hand, quickly, placing it on top of the stunned blonde's head.
"You will find the answer… I believe in you." Minato smiled, relishing in the feeling of his son's hair, so much like his own, against his hand. His sense of touch was fading now, too, and reminded himself of the most important thing right at the moment while pulling his hand away. But not before he burned the slightly diminished picture of Naruto's widening eyes, full of hope, into his soul. He believed that 'brain' wouldn't be the right expression since he practically didn't have one anymore…
"…Really…? Can I really…?" Naruto hesitated, unsure of himself, not used to such words, not used to anything that happened right then, but he was reassured again when Minato answered him.
"Parents always believe in their children." The Yondaime gave his son an encouraging smile, probably the last one he would give anyone anymore, just reserved for his son who made the man so proud… he really wanted to talk more to him. To tell him everything he wanted to know. He wanted to shower him with praise for all the amazing things Naruto had done, and even if he hadn't had done them, he would've been hard-pressed not to laud the boy, because that was Naruto. Because that was his son. And because he was the best thing that Minato had ever managed to produce, so much better than the Rasengan or the Hiraishin… Too bad he couldn't teach the boy the latter anymore…
He reached out with his arm, starting to be scared of what he knew would happen in only minutes to come. The Shinigami's stomach. It had been a part of the deal, until Minato's chakra still stayed in Naruto's subconscious he wouldn't be forced to go there. But now the time had come. That was pretty much the end. At least it's going to be different from the stupid white space…
"Now… I have to be going… My chakra is fading. I'll restore the seal… But this is the last time."
Using the last of his energy he restored the seal on Naruto's stomach, feeling his son's muscles tighten in pain while not only his senses, but also his non-corporeal body disintegrated themselves rapidly, leaving him able to only formulate one last sentence.
"Konoha can be rebuilt… I'm counting on you, Naruto."
Minato already felt guilty and sad again, seeing his son's image waver until he found himself in some kind of huge cave that he couldn't see the end of. It was dark and had a creepy atmosphere to is, but that wasn't as bad as Minato had thought the Shinigami's stomach would look like. Though he had the feeling that something was fishy here…
"So, you've finally arrived here, Namikaze Minato." A booming voice that seemingly emerged from everywhere in there said, a light chuckle in its voice.
"I suppose the reception committee should greet you now, no?" A loud laugh resounded and suddenly thousands of gruesome monsters practically rained from the invisible ceiling on him.
"This is the punishment for using me as frivolously as you did! For succumbing to your human feelings of something like love and this foolish desire to protect others! You've committed a crime, and now you're going to pay for all of eternity!" The voice got angrier with every word and while Minato felt the fear rising in him, he did something the mighty Shinigami wasn't please with at all.
He grinned at the bloodthirsty mob of demons, pulling out a kunai of his weapon's pouch and threw himself in-between the roaring creatures, thinking one thing that gave him the courage to keep on going.
"For Naruto… I'm doing this for Naruto…"
And even as the monsters started chewing on his in all intents and purposes non-existent extremities and somehow killing that incorporeal body doing nothing less hurting than before after he was miraculously revived in the same spot he had 'died' only moments before, he still didn't give up for this was the equivalent to all of the fights Naruto had had to fight before and after their meeting.
During the whole time though he had thought that he had made a big mistake. It didn't matter that his heart had hurt knowing that he would never see his son again at their meeting, he should've taken the boy into his arms, giving him all the attention and praise Naruto had definitely deserved for all of his life because even if the pain and loneliness wouldn't go away later, they would have both had the memory helping them to keep on going, to keep on fighting as futile as it may seem to them at times.
That day Namikaze Minato had somehow learned that regret could bite one's ass the hard way.
I've written this because I think that, contradictory to popular belief, Minato isn't as distant as he seemed in the manga, that he's just scared of bonding too much with the cheerful orange boy, since he won't ever see him again and likewise Naruto won't see his father ever again... Those two chapters reminded me of the Sasuke retrieval arc, in which the broody bastard had stated that losing a family was thousand times worse that having nothing to begin with... Hope you like my ideas here, since even I suppose that it's gotten a bit out of hand. But I couldn't stop myself writing this, so sue me!