Many thanks to: Aryax, OrangeLamb, ByEvelyn, Idsandctr, Spiral Reflection, Mel72000, xdevil-childx, Bunnibutch, Tamisin, kc, readit24, deanine, deepsapphiresoul, lovelycrazy1, twilightromance4ever, Maybe2Morrow, and Golden feathers Edward
A HUGE thanks to my Beta, Laurel. I do not own Naruto.
Recap: "Where will I be staying?" Naruto asked, curiously, despite still being slightly unnerved by recent happenings.
"With me," Minato replied, steering Naruto back down the corridor.
"Minato-" Jiraiya spoke up from behind them but he was cut off by the Hokage.
"He's staying with me." His tone was final, ending any and all discussion on the topic.
Naruto blinked up in surprise at the blond behind him. He didn't know what to think about the entire situation. It was just too confusing. The only thing that he was certain of was the relief at the prospect of getting a break from it all. More than anything, though, he wanted to get out of the dark lower corridors of the Hokage Tower. He didn't know what type of house the Hokage lived in, but any place was better than the dark, echoing hall ways, especially that room with the crystal.
"Here we are!" Minato tried to inject as much enthusiasm into his voice as possible.
Since leaving the Hokage Tower, particularly the room housing the crystal glass, Naruto had been quiet. Minato didn't know if this was normal for the boy, he knew surprisingly little about Naruto, but that didn't stop him from trying to cheer up the general mood.
Arriving at the house seemed to distract them both. Minato smiled as Naruto's head swiveled to and fro taking in as much of the house as he could. Customarily used by the Hokage, the building was located in a quieter section of the village, away from the busy center but still within the walls. It wasn't the grandest house in the village. It was old and since its creation other, larger houses had gone up, but it still held a calm dignity. A small garden and lawn surrounded it on either side, though the grounds looked a little over grown. The house had two stories; the traditional style beautiful in its simplicity.
In all honesty, the house was too big for Minato and he sometimes hated returning to it at night. He only used a few rooms inside and spent as much time away from it as possible. Occasionally, he would think of moving into a smaller apartment. There was no rule or law saying the Hokage must live there, but Kushina had loved the house. She had once said that it reminded her of the houses in Whirlpool before her country was destroyed, so Minato stayed.
Fumbling with the folders that had been thrust onto him by a frantic clerk before leaving the Tower, Minato unlocked the door. He nudged his son inside and turned, looking for his sensei. The Toad Sage had surreptitiously disappeared soon after leaving the Tower. Part of Minato was glad to have a moment alone with Naruto without Jiraiya's cautious eye surveying every interaction between the two, or move from the boy, but another part of him wondered what the old man was up to. Minato didn't want to have to spend another afternoon smoothing over complaints from half the young women in the village.
Still, there was no sign of Jiraiya outside so Minato kicked the door closed with one foot and dropped his heavy stack of paperwork on the nearest flat surface before pulling off his sandals. He glared at the stack, quietly cursing his own inability to escape without the clerk's notice. The desk ninja's demeanor had quickly gone from shock to panic at finding out that the Hokage was leaving unexpectedly for an undetermined amount of hours without finishing the morning's reports. One last glance at the loathed pile and Minato was fairly certain that the reports weren't more likely to be finished at the house with Naruto around than if they had both stayed in his empty office.
Minato smiled at Naruto as the boy gazed around the inside of the house as much as the outside. The entrance hall was one of the few places Minato still put effort into maintaining well. The furniture was simple and elegant dark wood, much of it predating Minato's time in the house. On the rare occasions that visitors came to the house, they mostly kept to the entrance hall or the sitting room beyond the first main door.
Naruto wandered around the edge of the hall, closely examining everything and anything in reach, pulling open drawers and peering into the closet. He came to the sitting room entrance and poked his head in, Minato following behind him and doing the same. The older blond cringed as he saw the state of the room. It was relatively clean, free of dust and clutter with two couches placed facing each other in the center of the room around a low coffee table. The few extra chairs and side tables around the walls were straight as was the large bookshelf lining the far wall. The only things out of place were the books strewn all around the room, stacked on the coffee table, side tables, and couch cushions rather than on the shelves reserved for them.
"I meant to pick those up," Minato muttered to himself, pulling Naruto away from the sitting room. "Well," he said in a louder voice as he guided the boy toward the stairs, "I guess we should find you a room to stay in first."
Naruto looked up at him surprise and excitement in his expression. "So I really get to stay here?" he asked eyes wide and bright. "And you don't mind?"
"Of course I don't mind," Minato said, half distracted as he thought of bed rooms that would be useable. He came out of his thoughts just long enough to smile down at his son, "I'm glad to have you stay."
Minato started leading the way up the stairs but paused when he couldn't hear the sound of steps behind him. He turned back and looked down. Naruto was still at the foot of the stairs, staring at the steps before him with a frown.
"Naruto-kun?" Minato asked.
"Why are you doing this?" Naruto asked, looking up at him.
The confusion and barest trace of suspicion in Naruto's eyes hit Minato like a physical blow and for the first time he wondered what type of life Naruto had growing up alone in the village. He wouldn't think that his son would be abandoned if things had been different. Still, there were little things, behavioral ticks, reactions, and comments like the last one which were making Minato nervous. He had a sinking feeling that he was not going to like what he found out about Naruto's life in the mirror world. It was yet another thing on the growing list of items to discuss with the Sandaime. He pushed it to the side, though. It was a topic for another time, in another place. Right now, his focus was on making Naruto comfortable with a room for the night.
Minato backtracked down the stairs and knelt so that he was level with the boy. "I'm doing this because I want to," because you're my son, he added silently. He was tempted to just tell Naruto the truth, but he didn't know where to begin, didn't even know how to continue the conversation if he did manage to start. Instead, he found himself reaching out and grasping Naruto's shoulders. "I know this is probably very confusing but I promise I'll explain, at least what I understand of it. First, let's find you a place to stay."
Naruto stared at Minato for a long moment and the man had the sudden feeling he was being weighed and measured. The confusion didn't completely leave Naruto's face but the frown smoothed out and his eyes brightened. Then, Naruto was running up the stairs, pulling away from Minato's hands in a burst of energy. "Right! Do I get my own room? Which one is it?" he yelled, bare feet pattering on the wooden stairs.
Minato blinked in surprise and hurried to catch up. "Some of the rooms aren't quite ready to have someone stay in them." He got to the second floor and found Naruto poking his head into the first door on the right. "That room is my office," he said pulling the boy away from the half open door. He caught a brief glance at the work space covered with books, scrolls, and half finished sealing experiments, what the sitting room could become if neglected for another few weeks. "You're not to go in there unless I give you my permission or it's an emergency. There's sensitive material in there, and I don't want you getting hurt, understood?" Minato pulled the door closed, trying to sound stern. There were some dangerous scrolls in there and several of the projects he was working on weren't safe for an academy student. He reminded himself to place some security seals on the door just in case.
Luckily, the eight year didn't seem interested in the room in the slightest. Naruto shrugged and hurried on to the next door. Minato followed suit and wrinkled his nose at the state of the neighboring room. Dust lay everywhere in the single bed room. There were boxes stacked on the floor and the bed frame was bare of its mattress. Minato spotted it leaning up against the corner. It took him a moment to remember that the room had been turned into storage years ago. "This one won't do."
"You can say that again," Naruto mumbled and pulled away from the door and headed the other way down the hall to the left of the stair case.
The next room was in a similar state, but lacked the boxes and had a mattress that was at least on the bed. Looking into rooms he hadn't physically visited for years, Minato felt surprisingly embarrassed. "I don't use these rooms much, haven't needed to."
"That's ok!" Naruto called, heading to the next door. He seemed more excited by the act of exploring than anything else. "I don't like cleaning either."
Minato frowned to himself. That wasn't the impression he had wanted to give to his son. He really was a neat person. Besides the habit of leaving his reading everywhere, he had always been the neater of the two when compared to Kushina. Most of the rooms in the house simply weren't needed, considering how little he was there, so he never used them. He added cleaning out the house on his list of things to do; maybe he would have some genin go through the empty rooms as a D rank mission.
The third room held a greater surprise than the two before it. Managing to open the door before Naruto, Minato stopped at seeing Jiraiya running a hand over a plain bureau, the Sanin's large pack sitting on the bed, curtains rustling on either side of an open window.
"Minato-kun, you need a maid," the older man said before Minato could speak, "Preferably a young, pretty, and single one."
The bachelor Hokage rolled his eyes at the comment. "What are doing, Sensei?" He pushed the door open wider, letting Naruto into the room. This one didn't seem too bad. The dust was only a thin layer and the bed was already made. He eyed the pack sitting on the same bed.
"What does it look like?" Jiraiya said, brushing the dust off his hands and smiling at both blonds. "Here I am in town, needing a place to stay, and I thought what better place than my old student's house? He has more room than he can stand and wouldn't turn away an old friend."
"No bath house this time?" Minato asked, a knowing smirk on his face.
"What? And neglect my favorite student?" Jiraiya asked, exaggerated shock in his voice. "It's almost like you don't want me to stay. That hurts; I thought you would appreciate the company."
Minato rolled his eyes again, but the smile stretched a little wider and there was more relief in it than humor. Minato was starting to feel a little out of his depth. He'd been living alone for so long and suddenly an eight year old was in his care. The thought of having help was a relief and it would mean that his sensei would be close at hand to help with any situations. "We'd be glad for the company, wouldn't we, Naruto-kun?"
Naruto looked startled to be included in the statement, wide, surprised eyes shooting up to Minato's smiling face then moving to Jiraiya's before a low smile spread over his own. "Yeah!" Naruto cried, a little louder than necessary, "That'd be great! Now there's three of us! We just need to find one more room then!" and he was off, shooting out of the room and down the hall.
Minato glanced after the streak of blond hair and saw Naruto open the door to another room that he knew was a closet. The boy's enthusiasm was contagious, like Kushina's had been, and he smiled back to Jiraiya who was shaking his head.
"That kid better not be that energetic all the time. I'm too old to deal with loud brats," the smile on the man's face as he turned to his pack undermining the complaint.
"He'll probably run you into the ground if he is, Old Man," Minato said, adding after a moment, "He'll probably run me into the ground. I wonder where he gets it all." He thought of the seal that he had seen on Naruto's stomach. He had forgotten about it after everything that had happened. Putting a hand into his pocket, Minato pulled out the scroll which he had copied Naruto's seal onto, "Here, look at this. Tell me what you think of it in private after we find Naruto a room."
His serious tone made Jiraiya look at him and then at the outstretched scroll. He took the scroll pulling it open and running a quick eye over the contents. "This is one of your seals," he said with a furrowed brow.
"Not quite, it's been modified," Minato said. Down the hall he heard another door closing beyond the closet and hurried out of the room. "Look it over carefully and tell me what you think."
In the end, they settled for a room next to Minato's. It was covered in just as much dust as the others, but had a full set of furniture and a large window that Naruto loved. Despite his claim that he disliked cleaning, Naruto seemed excited enough about the prospect of his own room in the shared house to attack the dust contaminating it. They would have to get Naruto some more clothes and other essentials, but Minato was satisfied enough with the day's progress to leave that off for another time. He left the boy with a bucket of water and some rags, promising to check on him in an hour or so after talking with Jiraiya.
The older man was sitting on the bed in the room he'd claimed his own, looking over the seal. His face was creased in concentration and his bag, still packed, had been shifted to the floor. Minato slipped into the room and shut the door behind him. He crossed to a chair pushed up against the desk next to the window and, turning it to face his sensei, sat down to wait.
Several minutes passed in silence before Jiraiya opened his mouth to speak. "This is one of your seals," he said without looking up, "I remember when you were working on it. I doubt I've caught all the modifications you mentioned, but I've noticed a few. When did you make those?"
"I didn't," Minato replied, leaning back and crossing his arms and legs, "I found that seal on Naruto's stomach."
That brought Jiraiya's head up, his wide eyes meeting Minato's. "This was on Naruto's stomach?" he repeated in amazement.
Minato didn't wait for any other prompt. "When I found him he was wounded, nothing life threatening, but enough to put him in shock and suffering from blood loss. I brought him to the hospital and the nurse there said he was healing at an accelerated rate. I discovered the seal while removing his ruined clothing."
"Accelerated healing, you say?" Jiraiya looked back down at the seal, fingers tracing over parts of it. "Well that explains some of the additions. These additions are for the recycling chakra. I'm guessing the other you in Naruto's world made those additions and considering the original purpose of the seal…" He looked up to Minato again for confirmation.
Minato leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees and looked down at his hands. For the first time he voiced his fears. "I think Naruto is a Jinchuuriki…and…I think I turned him into one." Silence greeted the statement. It stretched out until Minato couldn't stand it. He looked up.
Jiraiya was looking at him, posture mirroring his own. "You didn't do that to him."
"A version of me did."
"That wasn't you. That was someone else, someone facing different circumstances and making different decisions," Jiraiya's voice was firm and his gaze steady.
Minato wasn't sure he believed his teacher, part of him still twisted with guilt at the thought of doing such a thing to his son. Kushina had never talked much about being the Kyuubi's Jinchuuriki, but he still saw the pain it put her through during her life. He would never want that type of life for his son.
"It still doesn't explain what happened to him when we went to see the crystal glass earlier," Jiraiya's voice drew Minato out of his thoughts before he could sink much farther, the tone thoughtful.
"No, it doesn't," the younger man agreed, leaning back and forcing his mind away from his darker thoughts. "I've never seen a reaction like that, can't think of what might have triggered it…could have been one of a dozen different things."
"Naruto's the first that I've ever heard of to travel between possible worlds," Jiraiya agreed. He rolled up the scroll containing Naruto's seal and slipped it into his bag. "It could be a side effect of traveling between the two. I don't even know how to begin predicting what that would do to a human body, much less a person's mind. Perhaps we should consult Tsunade."
Minato nodded, eyes roving over the bare wood floor, stopping briefly on Jiraiya's sandals by the wall. The boards needed sweeping and mopping. The whole house had been neglected for far too long. He had a feeling a large part of his life had been neglected, as well, he just hadn't noticed it until now, like the dust in the unopened rooms. Minato snorted at himself, he needed more sleep. He dragged his wandering thoughts back to the issue at hand. "Then there's the period immediately before he came through that he doesn't remember. Anything could have happened in that time."
Jiraya nodded, grunting in agreement. "If we could talk to the Sandaime that would undoubtedly clear things up."
"But if the enemy has gained control of their tower and has access to the crystal…" Minato heaved a sigh, it was only going on noon and he already felt exhausted.
"We won't know unless we try. There will always be some risk," the older man said. Jiraiya stood up, picking his pack up and setting it back on the bed. "You're tired, and we won't be able to find out much more for now. Let's take a few hours at least to let things soak in a bit. I'm going to be staying for longer than planned, so you better have some sake down stairs or you're going to have a grumpy house guest." He tipped the bag upside down and poured the contents out onto the bedspread.
Minato pushed himself up, nodding in agreement. "I wonder if there's any food in the kitchen…" he said out loud as he headed out the door. He'd check on Naruto then move on to the kitchen to look at their food supplies. He couldn't remember the last time he'd gone grocery shopping, which was enough to tell him that he'd probably be stopping by the market later that day. Takeout wasn't going to be good enough for a growing boy.
"Hokage-sama, I have the report." The ANBU appeared, crouched low before Sarutobi and the table strewn with maps and papers.
"Proceed," the old Hokage said, never looking away from the intricate street map of Konoha's eastern quarter.
"Hai," the ANBU said with a slight bow of the head, "The enemy has taken approximately sixty percent of the village. Most of the residential districts are over run, as well as the front gate and the Hokage Tower. We have sustained heavy losses, but so have the invading forces. Most of our high ranking shinobi are still alive and the majority is able to fight. There is no report yet on the high raking enemy shinobi. We have captured several Iwa-nin that are currently being interrogated, when we have extracted information from them we will bring it to you immediately."
"Very well," Sarutobi said, glancing down to the man kneeling before him. The ANBU's uniform was dirty and torn, stained with blood and dirt. Who knew how long the shinobi had been awake and fighting. "Take a few hours to rest, get some food and sleep."
"I can still fight, Hokage-sama," the ANBU protested, stiffening at the order.
Sarutobi shook his head with the wisdom of a man who had seen too many wars. "You won't be any good if you collapse from exhaustion. You will fulfill your duty far better if you take the chance to rest while you can; otherwise you become a danger to your comrades."
The shoulders sagged ever so slightly and the ANBU replied, "Hai, Hokage-sama. There is one more observation from the front lines. The Iwa forces are forming their main line of defense through the village. However, the Amegakure forces seem to be concentrating on and around the Hokage Tower."
The announcement made Sarutobi pause and his frown deepen. "Very well, get your rest and then prepare yourself. At night fall we will begin our counter offensive."
The ANBU bowed low again and disappeared from the room. Sarutobi turned back to his maps, but he didn't see them. His mind was on the report he'd just received. While it was reassuring knowing his most effective shinobi were still able to carry on, it also grieved him to hear that so many of their youngest had fallen, men and women who hadn't even had a chance to live their life yet. It reminded him of the Shinobi Wars, a time he never wished to revisit in the remaining years of his life.
The most disturbing news, however, was the distribution of the enemy. He had a feeling Iwa, while providing the bulk of the troops for the attack, was not the true antagonist. Amegakure, in his personal opinion, was the more dangerous of the two and probably the instigator.
And now they were in control of the Hokage Tower.
Sarutobi's thoughts immediately turned to the crystal mirror he'd used to talk with Minato sitting in the depths of the Tower. He could think of no possible way the enemy could be aware of its existence. The likelihood of them stumbling over it was even less, but aware or not, accidental discovery or not, the danger was still present. Sarutobi's mind raced to his personal notes and research, containing the seal that he had used to send Naruto through to safety. He had ordered its destruction along with the other sensitive information they could not allow to fall into enemy hands, but he hadn't been able to oversee it personally.
Shaking his head, Sarutobi refocused on the maps in front of him. Shikaku, head strategist, ran through possible plans and their probability of success. He couldn't change whether or his notes had been completely destroyed. The best thing they could do now was retake the Tower and push the enemy out of their strong holds. Anything else would have to come at its own time.
A/N Sorry about getting this up a little later than normal. I wanted to edit it before hand. Well, as I'm sure some of you know, this month is NANOWRIMO, so I will be putting the bulk of my efforts into my novel. If I get far enough ahead in the novel, I will post new chapters for this story, but I can't guarantee they'll be every week. Don't worry, though, I'll be back to updating regularly when November is over.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Suggestions? Guesses? Encouragements? Let me know in a review! :D