There was a part of Naruto that didn't want to immediately get started on fixing the seal. The longer he put it off, the longer he was able to spend time with his family. The moments that he had shared with his mother and father in this realm were so different from what he could have imagined having a family was like. When he was a young child, he would dream of a father looking after him and a mother loving him, but that had just been pictures. Right now he had the real thing, and there were feelings that went with it that couldn't be explained. He wanted to stay and be with his family, which included Obito.
But they weren't his only family. In his own time he had friends that he considered family. He missed Sakura hitting him whenever he said something stupid (the frequency and strength behind the punches had decreased in recent years), he missed seeing Sai failing at human interaction because he took everything he read to heart, he missed Hinata and her determination to prove herself (which she had done time and time again), and he missed Kakashi and his constant excuses…
Guilt washed over Naruto, for he had not even stopped to consider his sensei since he had recalled his memories. He missed his Kakashi, but he also needed to find closure with this one here. Back when he had been on Team Minato, Naruto had tried to help him, but his efforts were met with resistance, and if anything they made things worse. No, he needed to speak with Kakashi before he left here for good. When Minato was finished with the seal, he didn't know what his leaving would do. Obito told him that this world wasn't real, and Naruto had struggled to understand that until it clicked in his head what that meant.
This world wasn't real, but that didn't mean that it didn't exist. When the seal had malfunctioned due to the Kyuubi's chakra, it had created a slight tear in the fabric of time. The tear gave way to a split occurring and two different worlds splitting off. One of the worlds was Naruto's future, or what was the correct future, and the other was this world. Not necessarily fake like Obito had said, but different, parallel. And Naruto had no idea if the two worlds could co-exist without him. Was he the reason for this and would sending him to the other destroy this world? Or would time continue on without him? He really wished Jiraiya would here, for the old pervert would surely have some sort of answer.
This is why it was so urgent that Naruto get to Kakashi. If this world still existed after he left, then he wanted to make sure that his sensei was going to be okay, because the truth was Kakashi wasn't. Naruto hadn't been able to pick up on the signs at first, mostly because he was unaware of what Kakashi was like normally, but now they were glaringly obvious. He had no one, and as someone who grew up without a family, he understood that perfectly.
Standing outside Kakashi's door, Naruto was thankful for the time he had spent as a public figure. If it wasn't for the experience that came inside a council room, then he doubted he would've known what to say when Kakashi suddenly opened the door. "Kakashi-sensei, can I ask you about a jutsu?" Kakashi's mask dropped for a second, surprise at the question showing on his face, before the mask was back in place and Kakashi was nodding and directing him into the small apartment. Knowing that this was probably the first time that any of his students had come asking a question, Naruto felt guilty for not doing it sooner. What would the harm have been in showing Kakashi some respect?
The silence in the room was uncomfortable, and Naruto couldn't help breaking it. "I was talking to my father today about a certain jutsu, and I was wondering what you thought about it?" Naruto winced at his own words. He doubted he spoke like that in this world, but with his memories returning, so had his slightly more educated speech. If Kakashi was caught off guard, he didn't show it. Not like that was shocking. Naruto waited a minute for Kakashi to say something, but he didn't so Naruto forged ahead. "We were talking about a jutsu that allowed time-travel. My dad seems to think that it is possible, and I think it's a really cool idea. Since you're my sensei, I thought you might know about it. Do you think it could be possible?" Lame explanation, but what else could he say? I'm from the future and I am here to talk about your past. Not creepy at all.
Kakashi leaned back, most likely thinking over his response. Time went by slowly as Naruto waited, hoping this question would be the key that opened Kakashi up. "Yes, I do believe it is possible." Kakashi answered slowly.
Something about the way he said it gave Naruto a hint that there was more to Kakashi's answer than he was implying. As he studied Kakashi's guarded face, understanding hit him like a ton of bricks. "You've considered time-travel before! Probably as a way to save the White Fang." Naruto really wished Sakura were here to hit him.
Kakashi tensed and his eyes turned cold. "Why did you come here today? To dredge up the past for your own enjoyment? So you can go to lunch with your teammates and talk about how boring your sensei is and how much he lives in the past." Kakashi's voice is hard, but his words don't come off as threatening like he must have intended. Instead they seem broken. Is this all Kakashi had in this world? A team that he doesn't think even likes him? Naruto's heart breaks as he watches his sensei, who for the first time in this world, has left his face unguarded. This new world might have brought about positive changes for Naruto, but it had damaged other people so much. He needed to apologize, even if Kakashi had no idea why he was.
"I…" Naruto's words caught in his throat. Why had Kakashi suffered so much pain in this world? Why did good stuff happen to some of them, and bad to others? He would take the pain he had suffered a million times if it meant that Kakashi didn't have to go through what he did. Because Naruto had friends who cared for him and people who believed in him. Kakashi had none of that. "I'm sorry." What else could he say? What else was there to be said?
Kakashi's gaze softened a fraction, but he was clearly no less angry, only confused. "You say you are sorry, but it is not my accusations you are apologizing for." The observation is keen, and something that Naruto knows that his real sensei would have picked up on as well. Kakashi continues to glare at him, but all at once, the dam break. There are no tears in Kakashi's eyes, but there is a pain in them that had long been buried. "I don't know why you came in here today to bring up the past, but I can tell you it is not a pleasant place to be." Kakashi paused, and Naruto was ready to speak, when Kakashi continued, much to his surprise. "My entire life I have been alone, and that is something that you can never understand. The people that I have had to watch die have haunted me every day, taunting me for my failures."
There was another pause, and Naruto knew Kakashi was struggling to get through this. Naruto could only sit in shock, as Kakashi actually opened up. This had been easier than he expected. "Don't make the mistake that I do not understand love and friendship. There have been times in my life where those things seem within my grasp, but in the end it is all for nothing. I lose them and the pain deepens." He looked up into Naruto's eyes. "There are only a handful of people in this world that I care for and I must keep the distant. Showing them love would only mean losing them. This world had no love for me, yet I must play the part it had given me. I will take the pain, because every day I am alive, there is a chance I can become a better shinobi, a better person. Maybe one day I will be able to save someone in a way that makes up for my failures. That's why the rules are so important, because by you following them, you are increasing your chance of staying alive."
Naruto felt like his head had been turned around. He was lightheaded and dizzy from Kakashi's confession. Why hadn't he understood it when Kakashi was training him, or when he had met Kakashi as chunin? Why had it taken so long for him to understand Kakashi's pain? A new thought crashed into Naruto's mind that hadn't been there before. "You've always felt like this, ever since you're dad's death?" Naruto asked this cautiously, not wanting to risk upsetting him further. When Kakashi barely nodded, Naruto felt like his lungs had been punctured. If Kakashi had felt like this since he was a young boy, then it would mean it was before Naruto had arrived in the past, before anything had changed. This pain wasn't something unique to this world's Kakashi, but his sensei had felt it too, maybe still did.
Naruto didn't know what possessed him to do it, because really, three hugs in one day? But he stood up and slowly walked to where Kakashi had his head bowed in hand. It was a bit awkward, what with Kakashi not reciprocating and also being hunched over, but Naruto wrapped his arms around Kakashi and held him tightly. "I'm sorry for the past. I wish there was something that I could've done to change what happened, but if there is one thing I have learned recently, it's that sometimes things happen for a reason." Kakashi lifted his arms and wrapped one around Naruto, probably the most he was comfortable doing. Naruto's heart gave a tug when he realized he would be leaving. It wouldn't take Minato long to finish and he would be going home, and while he knew that he would see Kakashi again, he also knew that this wasn't the same Kakashi as was in his world. "I'm also sorry for the future. Like how we can't change the past, there are things in the future that are beyond our control. Please don't let the future keep you from living today." Kakashi had to understand that when Naruto left, it wouldn't be Kakashi's fault.
"I will try to remember that, but it is a challenge to change one's mindset after so long." Kakashi pulled back and Naruto knew that his time was over. He had said his goodbye and he had hope for Kakashi's future here. Now it was time to get back to Minato. He was halfway out the door when Kakashi called back to him. "I hope I remember this when all is said and done." Kakashi said. Naruto felt his eyes grow wide. The implications of what Kakashi had said. Kakashi must have seen Naruto's confusion. "I'm a shinobi genius, Naruto. I've always suspected." As he turned to leave, Naruto was pretty sure there was a smirk hidden under Kakashi's mask. He didn't know why he was surprised, he had hardly been subtle.
Minato wasn't sure what he was supposed to feel having completed the seal, but he had a feeling anxiety was one of them. Was he really about to send his son to another dimension? Surely that couldn't be logical, yet here he was, putting the finishing touches on a seal that would do just that. He didn't even know why he believed Naruto's story, but he did. Somehow his son had two sets of memories, and through some strange means, the ones from this world were fake. He had been speaking to Obito about it after Naruto had left, and they had both been uncertain where that left them. Obito was confident that this was not how the world was supposed to be, so Minato trusted his son and his student.
The only part that left him terrified was not because he didn't know if this meant he would cease to exist or not, but that if he did continue to exist, it would be without his son. Obito had shared with him that Naruto had once admitted to growing up without parents. Was it some sick twist of the universe that it would now be Minato and Kushina going on without a son? If so, the universe was cruel.
Too soon, everything was ready. Naruto brushed through the front doors of the Hokage's office like he owned the place, which in a way, he kind of did. He slowed his steps upon seeing just Minato there. Obito had cleared out earlier, wanting Minato to get a chance to say his goodbye. He had also left to grab Kushina, he would be there momentarily. Naruto seemed to understand this, as he waiting without saying a word. When Kushina finally did arrive, she wasted no time going to Naruto and wrapping him in her arms. Minato smiled at the scene, before joining them. For just a minute, he held his family and imagined it would always be this way. Nothing was going to happen to them. But that wasn't reality, because he was about to send his only son to an alternate world where he wasn't there.
Kushina pulled back a fraction and looked Naruto in the eyes. "Obito might have explained a few things, but I'm still confused on the whole matter. But I'm trusting you and I'm trusting Minato with sending you to the right place. You need to remember that I love you. We love you. And don't go falling in love with the first girl you see. And eat healthy; you can't have ramen every day. I'm rambling now…Please just look after yourself, okay?"
Naruto nodded, "Okay, Mom."
There was so much Minato wanted to say, but none of the words came to mind. "Listen to your mom and look out for yourself." Naruto nodded again. It was clear that there would never be enough time in either world for them to say everything that needed to be said, so this would have to do. Stepping back, Minato reached for the seal on his desk. "I've worked everything we've talked about into this seal, so unless you're leaving something out…" A pointed look, "then you will be back in your own timeline."
Minato handed the seal to Naruto and started the hand seals. He barely heard Kushina's sniffle, and if it wasn't for his need to concentrate, he would be over there with her, holding her and crying. As it was, he needed to focus on getting Naruto home safely. Because that's where Naruto was going: home. A flash indicated the seal activating. The light brightened until nothing could be seen or heard, except for a faint I love you before the light was gone.
The spot where Naruto had stood was empty, yet Minato was still there; existing.
He was one of the youngest shinobi to ever become a Kage, but Naruto was not ashamed to admit that he was afraid. Once before this had been attempted, and it had failed then, what was stopping it from failing again? He was faintly aware of movement around him. He was afraid and he didn't want to face reality, but when had that stopped him before? Naruto slowly opened his eyes, squinting at the scene around him. He was in his own home, the one he had been given shortly after becoming Hokage. Nothing seemed to be different as far as he could tell, but then again in his mind that was over thirteen years ago. Sitting up, he saw who it was that was moving. Sakura and Sai must have seen him sit up at the same time, because they were both pouncing on him within seconds. Correction, Sai pounced and Sakura held him back so that she could look over Naruto for any injuries.
"How…How long?" Naruto was surprised at the rasp in his voice, like it had gone a while without use. But he had just been talking to his dad…
Sakura had tears in her eyes, but she didn't let them fall. "It's been two weeks since you were found."
Sai nodded beside her. "You looked pretty bad when we found you. It didn't help that you were missing for several hours after the meteor hit. We thought you were dead." From anyone else this would've sounded sympathetic, but it was Sai, so really he was just repeating observed facts. And Naruto was glad for him to do so. These were his teammate's right here, and he was happy to see them again.
Adjusting to being back was harder than Naruto expected. He hadn't known if he would retain his memories, but now that he had, he wasn't sure it was a good thing. There were times when he would catch himself about to refer to something that had happened in his other past, then remembering that hadn't really happened. Except it did.
The hardest part was waiting for Kakashi to return from a mission. Of all the people that he had interacted with in the past before the other world was created, Kakashi was the only one left. He felt like he needed to talk with his sensei to hold onto the little bit of the past he still had. His memories were all that was left, and like all memories, he knew they would fade over time. It was another month before Kakashi returned from his mission. Naruto had been doing the paperwork that had pretty much become his job since he returned (being unconscious for two weeks does not mean all paperwork occurred over that time did not need to be processed) when Kakashi entered the room.
He was taken aback at first when he saw Kakashi's eye covered up. Of course, in this world Kakashi had the Sharingan and keeping it exposed at all times was draining. The momentary lapse in memory frustrated Naruto, for he thought he was getting better at distinguishing between memories. Always observant, Kakashi picked up on his mood. "Sorry I'm late, Hokage-sama, there was a traveling circus with a tragic lead that I needed to help."
Naruto couldn't help it, he laughed loudly. That was just what he needed to hear, and his sensei knew it. "No excuses!" Naruto couldn't help the smile that spread across his face. He listened while Kakashi gave his report and turned to leave. While he was walking out, Naruto couldn't help but shake the feeling he needed to talk with his sensei. Kakashi seemed like the only person who would be able to help him understand what he was going through. Later, Naruto told himself. First he needed to finish all of this paperwork.
It turns out later was actually over a week after Kakashi first returned home. When finally, Naruto had time to look for his sensei, he was surprised to see that he wasn't at any of his usual spots around the village. He was walking back toward the Hokage's office when he realized the one place he had forgotten to look. The monument.
Sure enough, Kakashi was exactly where he always stood, looking at the statue with Obito's and Rin's names carved into it. Naruto was quiet in his approach, but he knew that Kakashi heard him. Once they were standing side by side, Naruto glanced over at his sensei, but he was still looking at the stone. Naruto respected his sensei enough to remain quiet until he was ready to speak. Time drifted, but for the first time, Naruto was not aware of its passing. He could have been there for just a minute, or several hours, but it would have still felt the same. No wonder Kakashi so easily lost track of time while here. An indefinite amount of time later, Kakashi spoke. "So what happened to you after that meteor struck? I was an unusual sight to see you unconscious, and I must say I was surprised when you didn't wake up after several hours."
Of course he would know it was related to that. "It's a long story. The short version is that a jutsu pulled me from here and sent me to the past. I met you and your team when they were about to test for Chunin." Naruto glanced at Kakashi, knowing he hated to talk about the past.
"You met Minato-sensei." Kakashi seemed awed. He turned so he was facing Naruto. "I'm glad that chance was given to you."
Naruto swallowed. "It was a great opportunity, but at the same time it caused trouble. I was there for a while, but when Minato tried to send me back, there was a problem with the seal, my fault of course, and I was sent to a second future that came about due to a tear in time." Okay, this was sounding ridiculous, but Kakashi was nodding like he understood. "I couldn't remember anything, it felt like I had grown up my whole life in this other world, and in a way I had. It was Obito that showed me the truth, and in turn, Minato made the seal to send me back here." Wow, that version cut out a lot of the pain that he actually been involved.
"Obito was alive in this other world?" Naruto nodded. Kakashi seemed to wrap his head around that. "If you don't mind me asking, what was I like?" Because Obito's death was so instrumental in who he became. Of course Kakashi would be different in the other world.
"The last time I saw you was the only time you weren't in constant pain. You had let the deaths that had happened around you harden you and it was like you were obsesses with following the rules. You were my sensei, and I will ashamedly admit that I didn't really listen to you, but you did have our best interests at heart. You were just afraid to open up. I think that you had spent so much time living in the past, that you had forgotten how to look toward to the future."
Kakashi nodded, taking in all that he could have been. He looked back toward the stone. "I always knew I was on that path. Up until the day Obito died saving me, I was consumed with what had been. Even afterwards, I struggled, but I was determined to live in a way that would honor him. There are times when it is still hard to live in the now and look forward to things, but Team 7 changed that. You, Sakura, and Sasuke gave me a new goal, which was to teach you how to be shinobi with their own way." Kakashi gave Naruto a small smile, though the only hint was a crinkle around his eye. "But that isn't what you are here to talk to me about, is it?"
Knowing that there was no way around it Naruto chose to just plunge ahead. "No, it's not. Seeing my mom and dad was great, being given a chance to meet you, Rin, and Obito then was great. I am thankful for the time I had there, but…"Naruto sighed, "what was the point of it all?"
Kakashi chuckled. "You're assuming that everything has a point. You say you were summoned to the past by a jutsu, your tone gives me the idea that it was by an enemy, correct?" At his nod, Kakashi continued, "Then I have no doubt that you participated in helping to end the war. Don't underestimate your time there because you didn't change the future. We've fought hard to be where we are now, and just coming and changing it would diminish all the effort we have put into changing our world. You ask for a reason, but does there have to be?
"When we fought in the Fourth Great War, was there a reason beyond us doing what we must? Is there a reason that the war happened? In a way, yes there is, there was a mad-man with a messed up sense of what the future could hold. He started the war in an attempt to destroy our future, but by simply responding to what was placed in front of us, we beat him. You were called back because of a man who wanted to turn the tide of the war, and you reacted to that situation. Cherish the memories it has given you. Your fight there is no different from the fight we had here."
Naruto smiled at Kakashi's reasoning. Leave it to his lazy sensei to figure out not only what was bothering him, but also a way to allow him to deal with it. "Besides," Kakashi surprised him by continuing, "You learned to let go, if your lack of reaction to me mentioning Sasuke is anything to go by. Naruto startled, surprised that he had missed that detail in his own life. But it was true. He had moved on. Like he had told Kakashi in the other world, it wasn't good to dwell on the past and miss what was happening right now.
"Thank you, Kakashi-sensei." Naruto started to leave before Kakashi reached out and put his hand on his shoulder.
"No, thank you. I semi-wise shinobi once said to me 'Do you really want to go through life holding onto the past? There's no future in that.'" Kakashi was already gone when Naruto recognized the words.
Shut up, Kurama.
A/N: Okay, wow, I can't believe this day is here. It's been a year since I started this story, and I cannot believe I have finally arrived at the goal I set for myself by completing it. I had a plan for this story from the start, but of course along the way the characters took over. Obito was supposed to be a minor character, and Kakashi was only supposed to be there to show the contrast of who he was and who he becomes. Obviously that all changed. But I don't regret any of it. These characters took on a life of their own, and I am so proud of where it had landed them.
A part of me is relieved to have finished this story, but another part is sad that I now have to say goodbye, to both my characters and my readers. I never thought his story would be so popular. I wrote a Narnia fanfic, and it received about 75 reviews and probably about 200 follows. This reaction to this story completely blew me away. You are all amazing. Thank you to everyone who has read this story, thank you for sticking with me and encouraging me along the way. I feel like I have grown as a writer, and it is thank s to the feedback that you have provided for me.
As a part of my thanks, I wanted to send you off with my best chapter yet. I'm not sure I accomplished that, but it is one of my longest, so you can enjoy that at least. To anyone with questions about this chapter, or is confused about something, please let me know and I will try my best to clarify it for you.
Oh, and the quote that Kakashi says was said by Naruto in Chapter 15 of this story, to anyone who was wondering when that was said.
I guess I should wrap this up, since I've probably lost all of you by now. It's hard to say goodbye. But thank you, and goodbye for now.
I leave you with a request to please review not just the chapter on it's own, but what you thought of the story as a whole.