A/N: Well, after a rather long time the new chapter is finally done! While I could explain to you all why I haven't updated in such a long time, I'm pretty sure you don't really care, so I'll just present you with the chapter.
Warnings: There are two, actually.
1. There's one Japanese word in this chapter, something one of the characters says – yume, meaning dream. It fit the scene better than the English word would have.
2. This chapter mentions a couple of OC's. The OC's themselves will never be in the story, but their names will be mentioned as well as some of the things they said. However, as a whole, they are unimportant.
Minato stared at the missing-nin in front of him, his eyes blazing with anger, his fists clenched. He had known it had been too easy. There had been too little opposition; too little interference. They had come so far, only to be stopped at the last stretch.
He helped Naruto down to the ground, his eyes never leaving the missing-nin in front of them, before he pulled his son close and behind his body in an attempt to shield him. He had been separated from his son for too long; he'd be damned before he allowed anyone to separate them again. He knew Kushina agreed with that statement as well: he could sense the anger and determination rising from her. The last thing she wanted was to be stopped so close to success.
"What makes you think you can stop us?" Kushina asked softly, her voice filled with venom. Yamauchi raised an eyebrow at her question.
"You are trying to remove something that's in my possession from here. Do you honestly think that I will allow you to do that, thieves?"
Something in his possession? Something in his possession?! They saw his son as a possession, a thing? They dared turn his son into an object?
Raw, untamed fury rose in Minato's chest. That was it; they had gone one step too far. Of course, they had already gone too far just by taking his son, but Yamauchi's words awoke something in Minato he normally tried to suppress as much as possible: pure, unaltered bloodlust.
Yamauchi Takeo and everyone involved with him were going to be destroyed.
Naruto held onto his daddy's (no, dad, Yumi-chan said he's a big boy and big boys don't say daddy) clothes, staring at the strange men in front of them with wide eyes. He didn't understand what was going on, but he did know that he didn't like it. He didn't like the way the strange men talked to his mom and dad - it made him feel...scared, unsafe. He had often heard people talk like that when he had been trapped in the dark, and those people usually caused someone to be hurt when they talked that way. It really scared him. He also really didn't like the way the air felt like: it felt like something heavy was pushing on him, suffocating him. He didn't think he could stand it much longer.
And the people were scary. The guy talking to his dad had a very scary expression on his face, and the guy with the red eye and the silver hair standing next to his dad didn't look very reassuring either. Even his mom and dad looked almost scary.
Naruto shivered. He was starting to feel dizzy from the strange way the air was pushing on him. He. Didn't. Like. It. Why were they still there? Didn't his dad say that they were going home? What was going on?
The hand holding him behind his dad shifted and pushed him slightly towards the scary silver-haired man. Naruto looked at his dad in confusion. Why was he being pushed towards the scary man? He didn't want to go to the scary man with the red eye. He wanted to go home!
"Kakashi...don't let him see this," his dad said and gave him a gentle shove towards the silver-haired man. Naruto grasped at his dad's cloak, but his hand grasped nothing but air. A gloved hand folded around his hand and brought his hand closer to his body. The scary man behind him placed his other hand on Naruto's shoulders and turned him around.
Naruto's head jerked up at the motion as he stared at the masked man in fear. He didn't like it. He didn't like it one bit. He hadn't been with his dad for a very long time and now the scary man wanted to take him away from his dad?
He wouldn't allow it.
Naruto struggled in the man's hold, punching and kicking him with everything he had, but the man didn't let him go. Instead the man pulled him even closer to his body, the arm thrown across his shoulders keeping him firmly in place. In one last desperate attempt to escape, Naruto lifted his knee, kicking the man as hard as he could between the legs.
The pressure across Naruto's shoulders decreased for just a second, but a second was all Naruto needed. He turned around, his eyes searching eagerly for his dad.
He froze when something warm and wet suddenly landed on his cheek, causing him to blink in surprise. Hesitantly, he raised his hand to his cheek and wiped the wet something off, looking at his hand when he finished. His eyes widened in horror when he saw the red coating his hand. Blood. If there was one thing he had learned to recognise in that place, it was blood. Blood was bad. Blood meant someone was hurt, or maybe even dead.
Warm arms suddenly surrounded him, blocking his sight and pressing him against clothes that smelled slightly bitter and dusty. The smells made him feel less scared: it reminded him of...of home?
Something small pressed against his neck and darkness took him.
Minato stood in the middle of a circle formed by dead missing-nin and three-pronged kunai. Yamauchi was suspended in the air in front of Minato, gasping for breath as Minato's hand gripped his throat, blocking his airway. His hands grasped Minato's arm desperately, trying to escape, but Minato held firm.
"You seem to have forgotten what I'm capable of," Minato stated, his tone deadly. Yamauchi glared at the legendary shinobi, his eyes filled with hatred. Almost negligently, Minato expelled chakra from his tenketsu, dispelling the genjutsu that had started to form around him. Yamauchi struggled in Minato's grip, trying to lower the pressure across his throat, but Minato held firm.
"You have cursed the world with your presence for far too long. For too long have you sown havoc and misery. I will be doing the world a favour by killing you," Minato declared, his hand starting to clench tighter around Yamauchi's throat. Yamauchi focused chakra to his hands, trying to force Minato to let him go by burning his arm, but his efforts were worthless. He struggled a bit more before stopping, glaring at Minato. A mocking smirk slid onto his face as he started chuckling.
"You think I'm responsible for all this?" Yamauchi asked, the smirk still firmly locked in place. The smirk slipped off his face and Yamauchi's eyes narrowed sinisterly. "I think you should look a bit closer to home before you accuse me of that," he continued, his tone filled with malice. Minato's eyes narrowed and the hand around Yamauchi's throat tightened.
"What do you mean by that? What exactly are you insinuating?" Minato asked, his tone cold. A smirk slipped onto Yamauchi's face at the question.
"Wouldn't you like to know," he challenged and bit down on something in his mouth, going slack almost immediately after as the poison started to work. Minato swore and jerked his hand away, leaving the missing-nin to fall limply to the floor.
"Tsunade!" Minato ordered angrily. Tsunade appeared beside the missing-nin, her hand already glowing with chakra as she extracted the poison from Yamauchi's mouth. Years of working as a field medic-nin allowed her to know what Minato had wanted her to do before he had even spoken. Slowly but steadily, Tsunade extracted the poison before tying Yamauchi up and nodding at Minato. Minato nodded back and turned his attention to the rest of the party. His eyes landed on Kakashi, who was holding an unconscious Naruto in his arms. Almost immediately, he stood next to Kakashi, worry and anger in his eyes.
"What happened? Why is he unconscious?" Minato asked worriedly, taking his son from Kakashi. Kakashi relinquished the boy to his father before smiling sheepishly at his sensei.
"Sorry. I had to knock him out," he explained sheepishly. Minato's killer intent spiked for a second at Kakashi's words.
"You had to knock him out? Why?" Minato asked coldly. Kakashi merely pointed towards the bloody scene in front of them, where the bloody and most definitely dead missing-nin were still lying on the floor, one with his carotid arteries slit and the other with a deep gash on his chest.
"So he didn't see that," Kakashi explained. "Your son is rather devious: he managed to escape my hold and came very close to seeing that. I decided to prevent that from occurring again by knocking him out," he finished. Kushina raised an eyebrow and stared incredulously at Kakashi.
"He escaped your hold? Kakashi, you were an ANBU captain. Are you trying to say you couldn't hold onto a small, undertrained ten-year-old boy?" Kushina asked, her tone disbelieving. Kakashi allowed a hurt expression to slip onto his face.
"He fights dirty," Kakashi protested. Kushina merely snorted at his excuse.
"He fights dirty? Of course he's going to fight dirty, he's my son! Besides, shouldn't you be used to –" A loud crash behind them caused Kushina to stop midsentence and the entire party turned around, trying to discern the source of the noise.
"Kakashi!" Minato ordered sharply, causing Kakashi to disappear around the corner where the noise sounded from. A few tense, guarded seconds later they heard a yelp and another crash before Kakashi appeared, dragging a shaking and terrified teen with him. The teen followed him reluctantly, an expression of terror and despair on his face.
Minato studied the teen, suspicious at his presence. The teen looked nondescript, but the scratched Iwa hitai-ate on his forehead was enough to put Minato on guard, ready to move at the slightest provocation. Minato handed Naruto to the person standing closest to him, Hizashi, before fixing his entire focus on the teen in front of them.
"Speak: who are you and what are you doing here?" Minato demanded. The terror on the teen's face grew more pronounced at the question.
"A-awas-s-segaya K-k-katsuki," the teen stammered out nervously. "Please don't kill me," he pleaded desperately, tears of terror running down his face. "P-please, I'll do anything you want me to, just don't kill me." Minato narrowed his eyes at the teen's request.
"Well then, Awasegaya Katsuki, if you don't want me to kill you, why don't you tell me what you're doing here." It was clearly not a request. The teen fidgeted before answering.
"I was just...just..." Katsuki stammered, seemingly unable to get the words out. Minato raised an eyebrow and increased his killer intent a small bit, trying to frighten the teen out of his nerves.
"...Idon'twannadie! Please, my commander said we had to attack you but I don't wanna die so I ran away when the fighting started! I-I tried to hide in that room and wait 'til you left before running away from here but then I noticed the exploding tags on the walls of the room and I didn't want to accidently activate any of them so I tried to slip away from there but I tripped over something and fell against boxes which fell and caused the crash which caused-" Minato's raised hand immediately stopped the teen from continuing.
"Hold it there. Exploding tags? Explain," Minato ordered, his mind focusing on the only important piece of information in the teen's words. The teen nodded and continued, encouraged by the fact that he hadn't been killed yet.
"The entire room over there is covered with exploding tags..."
Minato looked at Hizashi, asking him to investigate. The Hyuuga activated his Byukugan and scanned their surroundings, a slight frown growing on his face. His eyes widened and he turned towards Minato with anxiety in his entire bearing.
"It's a trap! All of the rooms in range of my Byukugan are covered by explosion seals! They're glowing!" Hizashi warned urgently just before the sounds of explosions reached them. Ordered chaos ensured at the sounds as they tried to escape the building before it completely exploded, but they were halted in their tracks when the corridor in front of them, the only corridor leading to the closest exit, exploded and collapsed. They would never be able to reach the other exits in time. In a last, desperate attempt to protect his family and comrades, Minato flashed his hands through a series of handseals. From the corner of his eye, he could see Kushina starting to glow with a slight reddish glow as she released her chakra, seemingly having the same idea he had.
The corridor exploded around them and the entire building collapsed into dust.
Dust filled the air. The silence surrounding the area was almost deafening, especially after the cacophony of sounds that had been prevalent only seconds prior. The air in front of Minato was hazy with dust, but he could still vaguely see the other members of his party.
"Is anyone hurt?" Minato asked concernedly, waving his hand in front of his face in an attempt to clear the dust. The other members of the party all affirmed their well-being one by one, except for Kushina who was busy swearing loudly.
"Kushina? You okay?" Minato asked, his voice heavy with concern. He heard her take a deep breath before she started coughing, probably due to the dusty air.
"Stay there! Just stay there. I'm fine...well, except for my leg, but it -" Kushina's words caused Minato to move to her side and interrupting her.
"Your leg? You hurt it? Where?" Minato asked worriedly, causing Kushina to sigh dejectedly.
"It's fine, Minato. A rock bounced against it, but it's almost healed anyway...I'm fine, really," she reassured him. "Instead of worrying about me, can't you rather do something to clear the air a bit? The dust makes it a bit difficult to breathe," she requested. Minato blinked at her request before flashing his hands through the handseals of a mild fuuton jutsu, blowing the dust away and causing his vision to clear.
Kushina was sitting on the ground, her left hand pressing against her left leg, stemming the flow of blood that was seeping sluggishly through her fingers. Minato could see the wound steaming through her fingers as the Kyuubi's chakra steadily healed the wound. The chains that were characteristic of Kushina's chakra exited from her body, spanning upwards.
Minato blinked in surprise at the sight and followed the path of the chains upwards, his eyes meeting the impressive lattice of chains criss-crossing over their heads that made up the dome they were standing beneath. He glanced around him, looking at the other members of his party who were all in various stages of standing up. Naruto was still unconscious, but didn't appear to be hurt, causing Minato to sigh in relief.
His eyes fell on Yamauchi and the strange teen - Awasegaya - they had found in the corridor. Both were unconscious, the teen apparently hit in the head by one of the numerous rocks that had fell during the explosion. Minato nodded in satisfaction. No one important had gotten injured too badly.
"Right. Let's get out of here," he stated and turned his attention back to Kushina. The wound on her leg was no longer bleeding, being scabbed over, but it still looked rather painful. He started gesturing at Tsunade, but Kushina stopped him.
"Don't - let's just get out of here. If it still hurts by the time we get home I will ask her to look at it, but right now I just want to go home," she told him. Minato lifted an eyebrow at her request.
"It won't take her that long to heal it," he told her. "If she heals it now it won't impede you on the way home." Kushina glared at him at his statement.
"But it will cause us to take longer to leave this godforsaken place," she argued, her tone angry. Minato fixed her with a flat stare at her argument.
"It's taking us longer to argue right now than it will take her to heal the wound," he pointed out. "Just let her heal it."
Kushina glared at him at his statement, trying to get him to back down, but he held firm. After a couple of seconds, Kushina closed her eyes and sighed, acquiescing to his wishes.
"Fine; if it'll make you happy," she stated. Minato gave her a tight smile before gesturing Tsunade over towards them.
She approached them and crouched beside the injured redhead, focusing her chakra and directing the healing energy into the wound. The innate healing factor the Kyuubi provided Kushina with sped up with the additional chakra, closing the wound completely. Tsunade inspected Kushina's leg one last time before she nodded, satisfied with the results.
"There you go. Now let's get out of here," Tsunade stated and stood up, reaching out her hand to help Kushina get up. Kushina nodded, agreeing with Tsunade's statement before grabbing the offered hand and pulling herself up, gingerly testing her no-longer injured leg by slowly putting more weight on it. She nodded to herself, apparently satisfied with the results. She thanked the sannin before turning back to Minato.
"Satisfied?" Kushina asked dryly, raising an eyebrow at her husband, daring him to refute her.
"Much better," he agreed and threw a look at the dome of chains over their heads, turning his attention to more important matters. "Is it safe to lower that thing?" Minato asked. Kushina concentrated a bit on her chakra and the chains before nodding in satisfaction.
"As safe as it can be," she replied and started disengaging her chains. Gaps started appearing in the lattice, causing some sand to fall in and allowing the sunlight to shine on them. The gaps gradually grew larger until the chains completely retracted into Kushina's body.
Minato looked upwards, staring at the rock surrounding them. Kushina followed his eyes before pursing her lips and walking towards Naruto and gently picking up the unconscious boy. She moved towards one of the numerous rocks surrounding them and jumped on it, standing proudly on top of the rock before turning to the rest of her comrades.
"I don't know about you guys, but I'm tired of this dump of a place and I want to take my son home. So are you coming or not?"
The air was funny. It was warm against his back, but cool against his face and it smelt like...like...he didn't know. The smell tugged on his mind, asking to be identified and it smelt like...he should know what, but he didn't. He didn't know what it smelt like, but he did know that he should know...
Naruto scrunched his nose in confusion and opened his eyes, immediately closing them again when they hurt from the brightness. He made a small protesting noise in the back of his throat and the wind suddenly stopped, the warm surface beneath him shifting slightly.
"Naruto?" Naruto? Someone was talking to him? It wasn't Yumi-chan or Kai-kun or...
His eyes flew open again when he identified the voice as an adult's, but immediately closed again when the brightness attacked him again. A yelp escaped his throat before he could suppress it and the surface beneath him shifted even more.
"Naruto? What's wrong?" Naruto opened his eyes very slowly, trying to block the brightness out. His eyes met a pair of concerned blue eyes framed by longish yellow hair.
Naruto stared at the face, his mind already identifying the man as 'Dad'. He remembered being wrapped in his dad's arms and crying into his dad's red-and-white cloak and being held tightly...but that was just another dream, wasn't it? And if that was a dream, then this would also have to be a dream, right?
"Yume..." Naruto muttered softly. His dad blinked and raised an eyebrow, a slightly confused expression on his face.
"Yume?" The word hung in the air between them, trapped between their gazes, until it was broken by another voice.
"Naruto!" Naruto turn his head in the direction the voice came from and stared at the red-haired woman (Mom) that was looking concernedly at him. He blinked in confusion before looking back at his dad who was still staring concernedly at him.
"Not a dream?" Naruto asked, the entire setting feeling unreal to him. Both of his parents blinked at his statement before rich laughter suddenly filled the air around them.
Naruto stared at his mother, drinking up the sound of her laughter. Her head was thrown back and her eyes closed as she laughed. Her laughter faded away to a gentle smile on her face as she gazed at Naruto with love and happiness in her eyes. She took his head gently in her hands and placed a soft kiss on the top of his head.
"No sweetheart, it's not a dream. We really are here and we really are on our way back home," she reassured him, her voice still amused. "I know it seems like a dream - heck, it feels like a dream to me and I know it's real but it just feels so -"
"Home?" Naruto interrupted her, focusing on the one word in her words that stood out. His mother blinked at the word before her face softened again. She stroked his hair gently, the motion soothing and relaxing him.
"Yes sweetie, home. You know, our house in Konoha," she confirmed. Naruto frowned slightly at the word, his expression thoughtful.
"Home," he murmured. Yumi-chan had always talked about home: eating fresh-baked cookies in the kitchen, climbing trees in the backyard, talking to family in the living room, and all the other things he always tried to imagine but couldn't because he couldn't remember 'home' himself. 'Home' was a word that had only belonged to Yumi-chan, because he couldn't remember 'home' and Kai-kun had declared that 'home' and 'family' went hand in hand and since he hated his family he didn't have a home, only a house he once lived at...which made no sense at all because how could you hate your family?
"Naruto? Are you okay?" Naruto looked up at the words, meeting his mom's concerned eyes.
"What is 'home' like?" Naruto asked his mom curiously. Her eyes grew misty at the question and a sad smile slipped onto her face.
"Oh Naruto," she started softly and gently pressed his cheek against her chest. "'Home' is the most amazing place there is. It is a place filled with love and comfort and all those small little things that make you happy that you never realise you have until they're gone."
Naruto kept silent, thinking about his mother's words. The way she described 'home' was different from how Yumi-chan had always described it, especially that part about things making you happy being gone, but even so, his mom's version of 'home' sounded...nice.
"...sounds nice," he whispered softly. Of course, it was only a dream, so obviously it would sound nice, but he was going to enjoy it for as long as the dream lasted. Well, unless the dream was actually a nightmare and not a dream but dreams where his parents were with him had never turned into nightmares before so why would this one? The dream he was having at the moment was much clearer than his dreams normally were, but there was no way it wasn't a dream. Dreams didn't come true in the real world, no matter how hard you tried. The current dream was wonderful, but even it would eventually come to an end and he would wake up again in the dark, just like all the previous times he had had similar dreams.
It would end: no matter how much he wished for it to continue.
Minato watched Kushina talk and stroke Naruto's hair with a sad smile on his face. It saddened - and angered - him that his son didn't know what it was like to have a home, even though he had had a loving home waiting for him in Konoha; a home that had been completely desolate without the bundle of energy that was his son that had used to fill the house with his presence. It had broken his heart when he heard Kushina assuring the boy that 'no, it wasn't a dream and yes, it was real, they were really there'. How many times must Naruto have dreamt about them, waking up to darkness and loneliness and the knowledge that they were not there? How many times must his son had reached out to phantoms in exactly the same way he had reached out to him when he finally found the boy?
It wasn't fair: no child should've been exposed to those kinds of experiences, much less his son. His child was supposed to grow up in happiness and love, surrounded by people who loved and cherished him; not surrounded by darkness and whatever else happened in that dark, dank prison. Children were supposed to be kept ignorant of the world's cruelty for as long as possible and yet, Naruto and the rest of the children in that place had had their innocence ripped away from them far too early in life.
The weight in his arms grew heavier as Naruto gradually relaxed, falling asleep with his head on Kushina's chest. Minato gently handed him to Kushina, moving him gently and softly to prevent him from waking up. The boy was actually a bit too large to carry in that manner, despite the fact that he was very small for his age (no doubt due to malnutrition, which was another thing that angered Minato), but it didn't appear to deter Kushina in the slightest. She smiled lovingly at the sleeping boy before shifting him to a more comfortable position, channelling chakra to her arms in order to support his weight.
The party set off again the moment Kushina signalled her readiness. They had separated from the team from Amegakure at the border a couple of hours earlier, where the Ame team had immediately set off towards Ame, intent on solving the new problems that had arisen from the entire mission, along with the ANBU team that had accompanied them. Minato had offered the services of Bear and his team to sort out the mess they left Amegakure with, including (but not limited to) the care of the few other children they had managed to rescue before the building had collapsed as a show of gratitude to their assistance. All that was left for Minato and his team to do was to return to Konoha with the objective of their mission: the boy sleeping peacefully in his mother's arms. As Hokage, he was going to be very busy the following couple of months – interrogating Yamauchi and investigating any possible traitors in the village, which was something he didn't look forward to, to not even mention the paperwork it would involve - , but he was also going to busy being a father. For the first time in five years, he was finally going to be able to be with his son. More than ever, his son needed him and he would not allow anything to stand in his way of being the father his child needed. Sure, there were going to be difficulties, but they were finally going to be able to sort it out, as a family.
_~…end of chapter…~_
A/N: There, another chapter done. This chapter gave me loads of trouble, but there were a couple of parts I really enjoyed writing. So please, any comments would really be welcome! ESPECIALLY true constructive criticism, as one of the reasons I stopped writing was because I actually started to hate my own writing style for a while.
Also, I have a question regarding my use of adjectives. It has been pointed out to me before that my use of adverbs in front of a word instead of after that word is "at times irritating". Now my question: is that true? Is my use of adverbs in this manner irritating you? Please answer my question as I simply don't know anymore what is correct and what's not and I AM trying to improve my writing.