I don't own Naruto... sigh

"Kaa-san!" Kushina looked up quizzically from the dishes she was cleaning, looking around her for the source of the call. "Kaa-san!" She looked around again, only this time a young boy slid into the kitchen, his bare feet slapping pointedly against the tiled floor. The tall red-haired woman chuckled at her son's antics before putting down the bowl she had been wiping.

"What is it Naruto-chan?" The small boy beamed up at his mother, his foxy smile practically glowing. Kushina smile warmly at her son, bending down with some difficulty to gently stroke his whiskered cheeks.

"Tou-san is hiding again!" Kushina chuckled more loudly this time as she struggled to stand up straight again, using the counter to pull herself up. Naruto just stared strangely at his mother, walking up to her and placing his small hands on her large round belly. "Kaa-san, when is my imouto going to be finished cooking?" Kushina just laughed again, somewhat regretting letting Minato explain to Naruto why she had been slowly getting larger in the past months.

"A few more weeks Naruto" The redhead just laughed, already anticipating the fun he would have with his sibling.

"How does she fit in there if Kaa-san already has a fox in her tummy?" Kushina sighed, another thing she regretted Naruto being told about.

"You know we'll tell you when you're older, now come on, if Tou-san is hiding what do we do?" Naruto groaned, her lack of explanation annoying him, but quickly covered it up behind a beaming smile, letting his brow crinkle cutely in thought.

"We find him! But Tou-san's using the Hiraishin, I think that's cheating!" Kushina just raised an eyebrow as she looked around, using her senses to try and locate her wayward husband.

"Really? Well I think you're right Naruto-chan; that is cheating." Naruto just giggled as he knew what was coming next; Kushina quickly raised her arm and smiled down at her son, "And cheaters need to be caught." Suddenly a large golden chain shot out of the woman's palm, darting through the various rooms of the small two-story house the family lived in. It snaked about, coiling around the rooms until it sneaked up behind an unsuspecting blonde man in one of the upper rooms.

Before Minato knew what was going on, he suddenly found himself completely ensnared by the same large glowing chain, completely immobilised as it carried him through the house. He came to a floating rest in front of his laughing son and amused wife. He tried to keep a stern face, but he couldn't stop his own smirk from breaking through.

"Now Naruto, I didn't think you would bring your mother into this, it was supposed to be a fair game." The six year old just shook his head furiously in that way only young children could.

"Nuh uh! When I go to the academy I'm going to be a Shinobi and a Shinobi has to use every advantage to win!" Minato just chuckled as his wife finally released him from her special chains, rubbing his wrists where they had been secured just a little too tightly.

"Well at least you're right about that." He bent down and tussled his son's spiky red hair, the perfect mix between his own and Kushina's, annoying him appropriately. "But what's even more important than that?"Naruto once again entered his adorable thinking pose that had literally had women drop their groceries so they could cry out 'kawaii!'

"Teamwork and always sticking by your comrades!" Minato just nodded with that same warm smile on his face as he patted his son's hair again, much to the boy's chagrin.

"Right." He stood up again, giving a soft kiss to his wife as his son turned away in embarrassment of the loving action.

"Aww Tou-san, Kaa-san, why do you have to do that around me!" Both parents just laughed as they stared at their son with bemusement. Kushina especially stared at the young boy critically, so like she had been when she was that age, yet in every other aspect he was his father's son. She was just happy he had inherited the Uzumaki hair or people would never believe he was her son.

"Now Naruto-chan, one day you'll find a girl you like and you'll be doing the exact same things with her." She bent down again, this time helped by her husband as she wrapped up her son in a hug "Then you can have your own family." Naruto just nodded warily, his mother was always stressing the importance of family.

"Yeah, I just wish you didn't have to do all the yucky stuff in between." Minato laughed at that as he helped Kushina up onto her feet again, enjoying his son's naivety and innocence.

"Aww but Naruto, that's the best part." To prove the point he quickly captured Kushina's lips in another searing kiss, once again to Naruto's embarrassment and annoyance. He blushed and ran out of the room, yelling annoyances and various amusing things that only made the two adults chuckle. Minato turned back to his wife, or more specifically the lump now very prominently emerging from her shirt. "And how are my girls today?" Kushina just sighed as she leant back on the counter, cupping her hands under her cumbersome bump.

"Very tired, although little Sukoru seems as restless as ever, I swear she's going to be worse than Naruto." Minato nearly blanched at that but recovered well, it wouldn't do for a Hokage to panic over a little thing like childbirth, again.

"Just a few more weeks Kushi-chan." The woman just sighed and nodded as she returned to wiping up the bowl she had been working on. At least this time she knew what to expect as opposed to during Naruto's birth when she had practically assaulted her friend Mikoto for answers.

"Right, right, Mina-kun, then we get to watch Naruto in his first days at the academy." The blonde smiled as he began walking out of the room. "Hey, where are you going?" Minato just chuckled as he went searching for his elusive son.

"I'm going to go and train Naruto some more, it won't do for a Namikaze or an Uzumaki to be left behind in the academy!" Kushina just smiled sweetly as she turned back around; she winced as she felt the baby kick again and rubbed her swollen stomach soothingly.

"Just a few more weeks Sukoru, just a few more weeks."

Eighteen days later

Naruto stood in the middle of a clearing, a blindfold over his eyes as he held a single kunai by its handle. Minato watched him with a smirk as he slowly walked around his son, barely making a whisper with his feet. Six kunai were scattered around the edge of the clearing, each bearing the same three-pronged design and the same sealing formula on the handle.

"Alright Naruto, you have to listen really carefully. Feel for the slightest disturbance, your reflexes will do the rest." The blindfolded boy just nodded as the muscles in his arms tensed in anticipation. He waited until he felt his father leave he clearing, noting how the wind died down completely. He was left with an eerie calm, his ears twitching ever so slightly as he listened out for even the most miniscule changes in the environment; sorting out the animals from the more unnatural sounds.

Finally, Naruto spun on one foot, pivoting at the same moment he flicked out his kunai, letting it sail perfectly straight towards what he'd hoped was his target. He lifted up a corner of his blindfold to look at his father, holding the kunai he had thrown. With wide eyes he stared, realizing it was a few inches from his father's throat. His father coughed as he pulled the blade away, blinking slightly at his son's unerring accuracy; it was on par with an Uchiha.

"That was good Naruto, I think you have 'listening to your environment' down." He looked down at the shining kunai again as he gulped, still a little startled that a kid not even in the academy had gotten so close to a vital spot, it was a good job he was the fastest man alive. He smiled a little, thinking that there was definitely no doubt that Naruto was his son, although he did wish he had inherited his blonde hair; he could only hope for little Sukoru. "Your accuracy is spot on too." Naruto grinned broadly, jumping up and down in a little celebratory jig as his father chuckled.

"But that's no excuse to get complacent, remember to always keep training no matter what the circumstances are. If you aren't at your peak then how are you supposed to protect your comrades..." He knelt down, pulling his son up onto his shoulders, much to the little redhead's delight "...or your family?" Naruto just nodded determinedly, fire in his eyes as he made an internal promise to never stop training and to always protect the people closest to him.

"Minato!" The blonde spun, unintentionally making his son giggle as he was thrown about atop his shoulders. He watched as his wife came staggering out into the garden clutching her stomach as she wheezed.

"Kushi-chan?" Kushina just continued to pant before she groaned suddenly, her knees bending a little as she quickly went through her breathing exercises.

"She's coming Minato!" the man just blinked as he stood there, stock still, his mind shutting down. Thankfully his son quickly knocked him on the head once, shocking him out of his daze as he suddenly flashed across the field so fast Naruto had to hold on or risk getting thrown off.

"O-Okay, we just need to call Biwako right?" Kushina just nodded quickly between laboured breaths as Minato hurriedly looked around, carefully setting Naruto down on the ground before disappearing into thin air.

He returned a few moments later holding a flustered and slightly irritated Biwako; the woman took one look at the situation before gently placing a hand on Kushina's shoulder. Instantly the woman relaxed as calming chakra began to flow through her system, allowing her to fall limply into Minato's arms with a lazy smile on her face. The blonde quickly began to carry his wife off, an enormous smile on his face before a small voice interrupted him.

"Uhh Tou-san, what's going on?" Minato froze and quickly rushed back to his son's side, making sure not to disturb Kushina too much.

"Don't worry about it Naruto, everything's fine, just wait in the house." Naruto just nodded uncertainly as he looked between his smiling father and his now blissfully drugged mother. "Just think of this Naruto, by the time I come back tonight..." he looked down at the large bump under his wife's clothing "...you're going to have a little sister." Naruto smiled brightly at that, forgetting all the confusing things that had happened so far. Minato stood up, but not before tussling his son's hair, quickly making his way through the house as Naruto followed.

The little redhead watched from a window as his father carried his mother away towards the safe house where she could give birth. For a moment he was confused that they weren't going to the hospital but he didn't really understand all that much about where babies came from anyway so he just shrugged. He looked around while grinning deviously... he had the house to himself for a few hours.

Naruto was getting a little worried, he had finished training a few hours ago and had taken to just lazing around and raiding the fridge when he could. Now he was sitting by the window, looking out over the village as he waited for his parents to return with his new sister. He was excited as well, he was going to play with her loads and teach her lots of things like Jutsu, as soon as he learnt some of course. He already had the substitution down; it was part of his father's speed training to see how many times he could substitute in a minute.

Now though it was getting late, it was well past his bed time, not that he would ever admit to needing one. However, his eyelids were growing heavy. Yet, he wanted to be awake. He was eagerly awaiting for his new family to return home. Even so, his vision was getting a little cloudy and the couch he was lying on was getting increasingly comfortable. He didn't think it would matter much if he just closed his eyes for a few minutes, he was sure he'd have plenty of time before his parents got back.

And then it happened. He suddenly jolted up on the couch, his eyes darting back and forth in panic as he listened to the sounds of screaming and destruction. Skin prickling, heart racing, he rushed to the window, only to see a sight that belonged in his childish nightmares. The village was burning. Plumes of fire towered to the sky, dwarfing familiar homes, thick black smoke smothering the thunderous clouds. Buildings lay in ruins, getting worse towards the edge of the village.

And then he saw it. The enormous fox. Its warped form growling madly near the centre of the village, its nine long tails thrashing and snapping out behind it, flattening buildings with single sweeps. For a moment, when time seemed to come to a halt, Naruto could have sworn the enormous creature looked straight into his eyes. The boy stumbled backwards from the window, the Fox continuing to destroy more of the village. Naruto turned from the window even as screams echoed, his hands clamping over his ears. He was alone. Where were his parents? He ran upstairs, his legs burning, his body shaking. He swallowed frightful breaths, wrenching his eyes shut, diving onto his parent's bed as he dug underneath the covers, snuggling tight into the gentle, lingering warmth they left behind.

Suddenly, surreally, his father appeared. Looking around frantically, he called, until he spotted Naruto - a lump in his bed. He quickly ran over, going down on one knee as he looked his son straight in the eyes. Naruto didn't know why he was wearing his Hokage coat.

"Naruto I really need you to be brave right now." The redhead nodded quickly as he stifled a sob, trying to pull himself into a more dignified position as his father gave him a weak but warm smile. "You need to come with me, there's something we have to do." Naruto nodded again, confused but he could never turn down his father before, on anything. Minato smiled again as he pulled his son into his arms, lifting him up off the bed.

"Tou-san, where's Kaa-san and Imouto?" Minato didn't say anything but if Naruto had seen his face he would have noted the single tear that rolled down the usually unflappable Hokage's face. Both disappeared in an instant, reappearing only moments later to the louder screams of terrified civilians. The acrid stench of destruction and burning was full in Naruto's nostrils and it made his eyes water. His father set him down on the roof they had arrived on. He looked around until his eyes landed on the fox; it was looking straight at him, its massive jaws pulled back in a snarl as it continued to swipe at the Shinobi attempting to stop it.

He was about to scrabble backwards, away from the unbelievable aura of oppression and darkness the beast gave off. His father's words suddenly came back to him, he needed to be strong; he stood in trembling feet, watching as his father summoned Gamabunta down on the fox's head. Naruto was suddenly swept off his feet again as his father picked him up, all of them vanishing once again until he fell to the floor. He looked around again, immediately spotting the shock of red hair that could only belong to one other person.

"Kaa-san!" Kushina swept up her son into a hug even as a large altar poofed into existence behind them, summoned by Minato. The nine-tails was thrashing around violently, wondering where it had been taken now in its red-haze of vision.

"Naruto, I love you, please be strong." Naruto sobbed again, not understanding what was happening, it was all going too fast for him.

"Kaa-san, I don't unders-" They both looked up as the enormous demon crashed its hand down on the ground, upsetting the earth and creating a massive cloud of dust. All he saw was his father standing there, his shirt blown open as he just stared at the enormous fox, bound by the chains erupting from his mother's back. He found himself being laid back in the altar, staring up into his mother's perfect purples eyes. He saw the tears, they were swollen and red but they looked down at him comfortingly.

"It's going to be okay Naruto-chan; everything's going to be okay." Naruto just nodded, his mind not working right as he tried to take comfort in his mother's eyes. Suddenly he felt a blinding pain like his insides were being set on fire. He screamed out but his mother just held him tighter, pulling him into her chest as fresh tears spilled down her own cheeks. Naruto was breathing heavily, his breaths coming out in rasps as the pain continued to flow through his body, not even noticing the seal that began to write itself on his stomach.

He opened his eyes, only to freeze in shock as he saw his mother standing over him, holding back the enormous claw of the beast. She gulped, tears streaming down her cheeks as she took one last look at her son.

"Naruto I, I lo-" She fell limp a moment later, her body falling to the ground in a growing pool of her own blood. Naruto could do nothing but stare in shock, frozen by fear and disbelief as he watched his mother's body draw its last breath, still looking into his eyes as they locked together one last time. He didn't even notice as the great beast dissolved in front of him, the energy rushing into his body that was already numbed.

Seconds, or maybe hours trickled by as he just lay there, staring at his mother's body until a warm hand found its way onto his shoulder. He turned, almost mechanically to look up at the pain-stricken face of his father, although he hid it well. Naruto looked down at the strange spiral seal on his father's stomach, not knowing an identical one now rested on his own.

"T-Tou-san?" Minato just smiled weakly at his son, already feeling his life slipping away and finding the words hard to speak.

"Know that we're proud of you Naruto, we always will be. I wasn't fast enough..." he coughed into his hand as he slumped down onto his knees, his body growing weaker "...you have to be faster for me, okay Naruto?" Naruto just nodded his head in a stupor, a part of him not really believing that any of this was really happening. Minato's last action on this earth was to take of his coat and slowly wrap his son in it before his body slumped to the ground, lifeless.

That was the scene Hiruzen finally emerged at, seeing the dead Hokage and his wife surrounding their shivering son who could do nothing but stare at the bodies of his lifeless parents. Hiruzen sighed sadly, knowing beforehand that this was a possibility as he made his way over to the shivering boy gently. He carefully picked Naruto up, sighing again as the small redhead just fell unconscious in his arms, everything finally catching up to him.

The old Hokage stared down at the legacy of what was supposed to be his successor, a single tear in the corner of his eyes as he looked back at two of his dear friends. He had already lost so much tonight, his wife, his friends but Naruto; he had lost everything. He walked away from the clearing, allowing the ANBU to do their jobs and quickly recover the fourth and Kushina's bodies. The village would require him to be strong right now; Naruto would need him to be strong.

Rain pounded down on the ground relentlessly but Naruto could barely feel it, his body was completely raw and numb as he stood there, staring down at the simple black memorial stone. The service wasn't long, but it was powerful, everybody had gone by now. He was left alone, staring down at the three names inscribed in the stone, seeing his own face in the polished rock. He wasn't sure how long it was he was standing there before the Hokage finally put his hand down on his shoulder but based on how soaked his clothes were it was at least ten minutes.

"Come now Naruto, you'll catch a cold if you stay out much longer." Naruto didn't reply, he didn't even move, his eyes just kept running across the same three names over and over. Hiruzen just sighed as he kept his hand on the boy's shoulders, knowing what he was going through, it would take time but Naruto would recover, he would grow strong again and strive to make his parents proud.

"You should go home Naruto. The academy starts tomorrow. Your parents would have wanted you to go." Naruto just nodded lamely as he walked off, not even glancing back at the formerly retired Hokage. He trudged off through the pouring rain, his mind and body completely numb to everything around it. Even now his mind was stuck, reeling through those names, the names on that simple black memorial that would haunt his dreams.

He walked through the streets, skirting around a large crater without really looking. His body was mostly working on instinct today, just going through the motions as he lamely made his way through the village to the academy. He was wearing one of his father's old tracksuits; he didn't know why he had picked it out specifically but it was smooth and smelt of his father. His forever untameable hair spiked out around is head and he ran a hand through it, remembering how his mother always tried to make it fall flat like her own.

His hand fell back down to his side as he crossed the threshold of the Academy, sliding round people like a ghost as he glided towards his classroom. He took a seat at the back, idly noting the faces of some of the other students as he moved past. Some were crying while others were consoling their friends to the best of their abilities; most were shocked but otherwise okay. He noticed a young raven-haired boy take a seat at the back on the other side of the class from him; he too was very quiet and reserved.

He sat down; not really watching as the rest of the class slowly trundled in, no real haste to any of their movements. The Kyuubi attack had hit hard and fast. Nobody had escaped without some damage. Naruto looked down at his own stomach, knowing full well what he now contained within him, the very creature that took away the lives of his parents. He didn't know it but his fingers were clenched hard on the table, his fingernails scoring through the wood with a noticeable shriek. It earned him some strange looks from the rest of the class, not that he particularly cared.

Nobody sat next to him. He didn't know if it was because of who he was, what he contained, or just because of the vibe he was giving off. He was glad for the solitude; it let him think, although that probably wasn't for the best as his thoughts tended to drift towards the darker side nowadays. Finally the last of the students took their seats as the sensei cleared his throat, starting off with a relatively boring lecture about how the attack on the village wouldn't weaken their will of fire or something like that.

Naruto zoned out, only keeping a wary ear out for any useful information. He still hadn't forgotten the promise he had made to his father, the last promise he could ever make to his father. He was going to get stronger, he was going to get faster; he would protect those precious to him. He slumped down on the desk, earning a few more curious looks from his classmates as he closed his eyes. He wasn't sleeping; he was just tuning out everything like his father had taught him, a form of mediation he had learned to augment his Senjutsu training.

He was rudely awoken from his semi-trance though when the door to the classroom burst open. All eyes turned to the door where a young girl of their age now lay on the floor, her momentum having carried her through the door too far. She picked herself up with a sheepish grin, straightening out her clothes which looked very hastily thrown on, obviously in a hurry. Naruto only took a moment to look over her interesting purple hair and dishevelled black shirt that looked way too big for her before slumping back down on the desk.

He didn't realise that the seat next to his was the last available until the girl promptly sat down next to him, giving him a confused look before turning back to face the teacher. Within five minutes the girl was laid back on her chair, her tongue lolling out of her mouth as her eyes rolled back up into her head. Naruto had to look around, out of bemusement if nothing else, to see the overtly exaggerated display of boredom before returning to his comfortable position on his arms.

He was listening to the lecture carefully, filing it all away in his mind if it proved useful but it was becoming increasingly difficult with the girl next to him snoring in a loud and obnoxious manner. He tried to ignore it but he found himself constantly looking up from his desk only to see the girl crack an eye open and smirk at him before returning to her annoying snores. She was hastily brought out of her fake sleep when the teacher threw his eraser clean across the room, slamming the girl right in the forehead. She tumbled back off her chair to painfully smack her head against the back wall, rubbing it painfully as she glared at the teacher.

"What was that for?!" The teacher's eye just twitched violently as he held up the clipboard higher so that she could see it.

"Anko Mitarashi!" She just glared even harder at him.

"Yes sensei" The Chuunin just glared at the girl a little longer, already knowing she would be a pain to teach. He sighed and looked down at the clipboard, his eyes opening a little wider as he read the next name.

"Naruto Namikaze." There were a few murmurs that spread around the room at the name before Naruto stood up, nodding his head to the teacher who nodded back respectfully. Naruto just sat back down, sighing and hoping that all his teachers wouldn't be like that; he wanted to learn, not get pampered. Anko sat back down in her chair, looking around the room at all the kids whispering while rubbing her sore head. She looked at Naruto, noting that he hadn't curled up in his little desk ball like before.

"What's their problem?" Naruto raised an eyebrow as he looked at the students Anko was motioning to and sighed.

"It's because of my name." Anko just stared some more, her own eyebrow quirking up at his cold tone as she looked back around.

"So what, means fishcake right?" A visible tick appeared on Naruto's head as he tried unsuccessfully to ignore the girl again.

"No, my surname." He turned to face her with a visibly irritated expression "And it means maelstrom." Anko just chuckled sweetly as she shook her head.

"Whatever you say... Fishcake." Naruto's eye twitched again as he blotted her out completely, returning to staring at his desk and listening solely to the lecture. "So what's up with Namikaze?" Anko turned but found Naruto to be ignoring her, it irked her a little so she in turn turned and ignored him. She tried to think why Namikaze sounded so familiar but it wouldn't come to her, she didn't really talk to kids her own age much so wasn't well informed.

Finally the teacher dismissed them for lunch break and everybody was surprised when a gust of wind seemed to blow through the class. When everybody looked back around Naruto was gone, vanished in a red blur. Anko just blinked as she stared at the seat next to her, amazed by his speed. Another cog in her head refused to click as she tried to match the name Namikaze with unbelievable speed. In the end, she just shrugged and filtered out of the room with the rest of the class, making sure to send a dirty look the teacher's way.

As soon as she was outside she looked around for the elusive and speedy redhead, her eyes narrowing when she couldn't spot him. She hadn't got all that much sleep last night so when she spotted a nice, unoccupied spot of grass she happily flopped down on it, staring up at the birds flying across the bright blue sky. She blinked in amazement when she spotted just the boy she had been looking for, walking straight up the side of the academy towards the roof. Her body turned to stone, staring blankly at the impossible sight, wondering if she had hit her head harder than she had thought before. Was it something she ate?

She picked herself up and rushed back into the building, taking the stairs up three at a time as she raced to the roof. When she finally burst out of the door she saw Naruto sitting with his legs dangling over the edge of the roof, a small bento on his lap as he stared out over the gathered kids. Anko walked up behind him, trying to be stealthy as she carefully placed one foot after the other.

"If you're trying to sneak up on me you aren't doing a very good job." Anko mentally cursed, then paused, asking herself why she cared what he thought.

"Wasn't trying to." Naruto just turned with a disinterested look on his face as he took her in again.

"Then what were you trying to do?"

Anko froze, unsure of what to say; for some reason she didn't want to say she had been looking for him for the sake of it.

"How did you walk up the building?" Naruto glanced at her once before looking back out over the academy grounds.

"With Chakra." He said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world, yet his voice held no arrogance, just a sort of tiredness.

"Could you teach me?" Anko wasn't even sure where that had come from, it was almost on instinct. Naruto seemed to sense her incredulity as he turned again, looking at her with critical eyes.

"Why? I'm sure one of our sensei will teach it to us eventually." Anko just grinned as she walked over, sitting herself down next to the strange redhead she suddenly found so fascinating.

"Yeah, but if I can learn it now then why not learn it now?" Naruto hummed as he looked at her again, it sounded exactly like something his mother might say. It was ever so slightly petulant but playful at the same time... like she already knew she had won the argument.

"I guess. I don't see why not." Anko grinned broadly, a bright smile that managed to ease some of the cold that had settled in Naruto's heart since his parents' deaths. For the first time in a week the edges of Naruto's mouth managed to curl up ever so slightly into a ghost of a smile.