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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Did You Ever Think?

Did You Ever Think?
by: Samurai101

Did you ever think you just weren't meant to be great?

I was fifteen, and I'd been fighting in the war for almost as long as I could remember. Jiraiya-sensei tried to keep me and my teammates out of the war for as long as he could, but I showed great 'promise' so he had to take me out. Ulitmately, Jiraiya's loyalty was to Konoha, and if he had to sacrifice me for Konoha, so be it, he would. He tried to help me--to keep me close, but he couldn't do that all the time.

I was wild, loose, and terrified out of my mind half the time. I was killing to save, but the sight of the carnage I caused made me sick. I fought through it, trying to stay one step ahead of my hysteria. The backlash of all my deeds was sure to catch up with me, but I ran from it as fast as I could. I didn't realize that when that finally caught up with me it would be twice as bad for all my running.

It slapped me across the face the second I stopped moving, and if Fugaku hadn't been there, I don't know what would have happened.

It was Fugaku who told me to stop laughing at nothing. It was Fugaku who had the guts to slap the hysterically laughing brat who'd just slaughtered fifty people across the mouth and shout at him to shut up. It was Fugaku who make sure I didn't get dehydrated afterwards, when I kept puking every five seconds.

That was really how our relationship always was. I messed up and freaked out while Fugaku set me straight and cleaned up.

I was twenty-one and I'd been fighting in the War for almost four years straight. I missed my family, and I was sick and tired of all the blood and mud around me. I wanted to go see Mikoto, and convince myself she hadn't married someone else. Maybe she thought I was dead. Maybe she just wanted to marry someone who was there. It wasn't a very happy day for me, but no day was back then.

It'd been raining for three days straight when I met Minato. Our company was cornered, and out of the blue, this giant toad appeared, and there was this flickering all over the field. People were falling, dying, and it was horrific. It was wonderful, because we'd been in a deadlock for the past five days, and we needed to get out. Fifteen to seventy-two were not good odds, and whatever was happening, it was evening out the odds. There was a lull, a pause where no one knew what to do, and then someone gave the signal to go--to fight. I leapt on it.

I was out of the trench in a second, and there was a bone chilling scream as I managed enough chakra for a summons. Black death streaked along the ground in front of me in the form of a giant cat summons, and I released a fireball at the closest enemy. It didn't do much but shout 'hey look UCHIHA!'. Everyone wanted a piece of the Uchiha right now. The Hyuuga were too afraid to come out of their comfy little compound, and they weren't really suited for the brawling nature of war. The Uchiha were in the thick of all the fighting, dying and bleeding for Konoha every second of every day. The only clan doing as much was the Inuzuka, but people were more afraid of their dogs than them (rightly so in my opinion, though neither should be underestimated).

There was something to be said for tonfa, especially after exploding someone's head with one like an overripe watermelon. With my chakra low I had to use plain tonfa with only a little chakra to enforce my blows, but it was enough to kill. The summons had used up a lot, but she was worth it. People dropped and screamed as she passed, perfectly silent death. Ninja were definitely cats. For about fifteen minutes there was nothing but blood, fighting, screaming, and death all around, and then it was gone. Whatever--whoever had appeared had killed most of the enemy-nin.

It, I discovered quickly, was boy, neon yellow hair crusted with blood, and eyes wide and shocked looking. The toad was gone, presumably his. He was probably the kid Jiraiya-sama had taken on. Someone stepped forward to congratulate him, but the kid's eyes were stuck on the carnage around him. He smiled, and it wasn't happy. I knew that look. That was the 'I'm about to snap' look, and anyone near was going to get caught in the recoil. I started moving. I wasn’t going to watch another frantic child turn comrade killer.

Then kid let out this noise, and it took me a while to realize it was a laugh. It was a terrible laugh--horrid, stretched, and hysterical. It bubbled out of him in shrieks, and it went on and on. Everyone stared, and I stopped. Some backed up. Plenty of insane ninja were allowed on the battlefield, especially if they could do what this kid had just done. Everyone was caught again, hesitating and afraid to break the kid’s laughter--afraid he might go off on them whether he was insane or not. I listened to two more shrieks, and then stalked forward.

"Just shut up already!" I slapped my hand across his face, hitting his mouth more than his cheek. The kid's head snapped sideways and he stared up at me with huge blue eyes. He was shaking all over, chakra exhaustion evident. After a month in the war you became intimately familiar with all the signs of chakra exhaustion, and this kid was showing tons of them. I grabbed his by the collar and hauled him off towards the trench, intending to make him rest and maybe force feed him some sedatives until he calmed down. I ended up forcing fluids to keep him from dehydrating as he puked all night.

It was only later I learned he was Jiraiya-sama's little pet student, and, actually, that first meeting set the tone for our friendship. Minato ran in and saved the day, and I ran after and saved him.

Fugaku was the only one who ever treated me like a human after I became the Yellow Flash. After I become great, Fugaku could still look me in the eyes, slap me on the mouth, and make me drink water until my eyeballs swam. He did that once when I had Kakashi trailing after me, and if that didn't make the Kakashi turn red and splutter.....

Fugaku was the one who always knew what to say to me when I felt like I couldn't get up again for anything. He gave me that one last shove and smiled as he did it, even when he knew I was going to break bones when I hit the ground. That was okay, he'd always been there and done that, and broken more bones than I could ever imagine. He actually remembered life before the war, and he could push to get that back. All I remembered was sunshine and sunflowers, and that didn't seem like a thing to kill over.

He also had a wife and kid waiting in Konoha, and I didn't know if I even had a friend left alive--except Jiraiya-sensei. Kakashi didn't count. He was just a kid.

"Oy, Butana-chan, mooch your butt over," Fugaku commanded as he prodded the said butt with a foot.

I did, and as soon as he sat down I fell over across his lap with a dramatic sigh. "Am I dead yet?"

Fugaku leaned down and gave my head a healthy sniff. "You smell like it, but you're breathing, so maybe not. If you start rotting we'll know. You might want to stay out of the sun just in case."

"Mm," I rolled over and looked up at Fugaku's stern face. "Oi, you think Itachi-chan's walking yet?" I had never been complimented for my long attention span. The opposite was usually true, in fact.

"I don't know," Fugaku replied, and his face got dark. Oh, he missed Itachi, and, come to think of it, I did too. I'd only seen him once, but he was a cute little pudge-ball. I was looking forward to being an honorary uncle, if Fugaku would let me, that was.

"Hey," I tapped him on the cheek with a blood-encrusted gloved hand. Flakes of blood fell off onto me and stuck to his face. It was a good thing he didn't have facial hair, otherwise the blood would be stuck in it. Fugaku didn't even flinch, but he never did with me. Poor man had built up a tolerance to me, and any motion I made while close to him.

"What?" Fugaku asked, trying to look very disgruntled. I knew he wasn't. He was too tired to be disgruntled.

"If I get recalled before you, what do you want me to say to Mikoto for you?" I asked, eyes slipping closed. Fugaku's chakra always helped me relax. It burned gently against my senses, strong and silent.

"Hn," Fugaku gave a small sigh. "That I love her, obviously, and I'm doing okay." Fugaku peeled some of my blood encrusted hair from my cheek. "Before you say anything to her, you had better take a bath."

"Hmmm," I hummed and wished I could fall asleep. There was a little sunshine on us, and I was exhausted. Everyone was. "Don't worry I will."

"And give Itachi a hug and kiss for me, all right?" Fugaku added after a lull where some birds tried to sing. Most of the wildlife had been chased off by the excessive ninja fighting. I missed the songs of birds…what I remembered of them, anyway.

"Absolutely," I yawned and stretched.

"What about you?" Fugaku asked, still peeling bloody hair off my face.

"What 'bout me?" I slurred, letting everything relax. Fugaku's lap was the most comfortable thing I had sprawled across in a long time.

"If I go back before you, who do you want me to give messages to?" Fugaku pressed. I winced as he pulled too hard on a particularly stuck lock of hair.

"I dunno, my mom, I guess, and Jiraiya-sensei, if he's there," I rubbed at my face, crumbling off caked blood. "I don't have much anyone else, 'cept you, of course."

"I'll be sure to deliver a message to myself then," Fugaku drawled, something he only did when he was making fun of me. I tried lazily to smack him in the jaw, but it didn't work. Fugaku chuckled at me, sort of condescending, but not enough to get riled about. I kept my eyes closed and tried to block out the smell of blood and death that rose off of me and the land around me.

That was usually how things went. I tried to escape from reality, and Fugaku watched out for me while I did.

Minato sat with his feet braced on my shins, and I gave up on trying to get him to move his feet. He was anxious, twitchy, and about to drive me mad, but that was how everyone was now. Peace treaties were being talked of, meaning we were to expect fiercer fighting as the end drew near. Minato and I sat on either side of a hollow in a tree in which Minato's team slept.

"Sorry to hear about Obito," I almost whispered to Minato.

"People die in war," Minato tried to be casual, but I could see it bothered him. Thoughts were rushing through his mind. What could he have taught Obito that would have helped him live a little longer? "Did you know him?"

"Obito?" I grimaced. "I did, but I only met him two or three times. He was mostly loud and annoying, but he was a good kid."

"Aa," Minato closed his eyes and leaned his head back till it pointed towards the sky. "Everyone's a good kid after their dead, huh, Fuugaku?"

"They are, but Obito was a good kid before he was dead," I replied. It was the truth, and, more importantly, it was what Minato needed to hear right now. Minato smiled a little at the sky, and looked back down to me. His eyes were tired, and even his hair seemed to droop.

"How far in debt do you think Konoha is?" Minato asked, pitching his voice low.

I glanced over at my own squad, all three up in one of Konoha's monster trees. Two were playing a dice game while one was one watch. He caught me looking up and gave a discreet wave. I returned it and looked back to Minato. "Their hearing isn't that good, and none of them are interested in politics. "

Minato smiled and leaned forward anyway. "Fugaku, they want me to be Hokage."

I nodded. "I know. I'm going to be head of the Uchiha clan, and I get informed of these things. I think you'd make a great Hokage."

Minato gave me a strangled look. "Oh, yes, I've spent most of my life fighting, Fugaku. What do I know about running a village?"

"You'd be a figurehead, Butana-chan." I leaned back and looked him over. "Ninja worship you as a savior already, and making you Hokage, especially as the war ends, will make you basically a god. Sandaime-sama's still alive so he can help you out with the technical things. We'll need a strong leader when this is over, and you can be that."

Minato gave me a wry smile. "I don't feel like a very strong leader right now. Did you know we'll have been fighting this year for fourteen years in a few months? How crazy is that? That's more than half my life, Fugaku."

"Almost half mine," I intoned. He was right. This war had dragged on for too long, and it was showing. Konoha had to hire unaffliated ninja to dress as Konoha-nin to fool Iwa into thinking we were stronger than we actually were. There was all the debt Konoha was accumulating, though unaffiliated nin worked cheap compared to ninja with a village to support. My own squad was unaffiliated-nin. From what I'd heard, mine were well-mannered and competent compared to the other nin we'd hired.

"Butana-chan, you'd make a great Hokage," I repeated. "You should accept."

"Eh," Minato scrubbed a hand through his hair. "Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live for yourself for a while? I mean, to stop running and killing for Konoha, and just do what you want?"

"Every time I see Itachi-chan, and every time I have to leave Mikoto," I replied honestly. Itachi was four years old now, and he barely knew who I was. I wanted to get back to him and Mikoto so badly my chest ached.

"Mm," Mintao was probably thinking about Kushina, the pretty little kunoichi from Whirlpool he was fond of. "Do you think this war is ever really going to end?"

"It had better," I growled. "Itachi is not going to grow up fighting in a war, Minato. I don't care who I have to kill to make that happen, but he won't."

Minato was silent, possibly wishing he had someone he could fight for like that. Ever since his mother's death, Mintao had been mostly alone. He fought for Konoha, and that was all. I was fighting for: my wife, my son, my clan, and my village--in that order too.

Minato let out a long sigh. "If I become Hokage, than you'll be right. I will just be a figurehead, won't I?"

I nodded. "For a bit, at least. You'll grow out of it quickly, I'm sure, and the council will be eating out of your hand like pigeons."

Minato made a face. "I hate pigeons. They smell, and they poop everywhere."

I sniggered. "The council is just like pigeons. They stink of plotting, and they're full of crap they like to deposit on your shoulders."

Minato gave me a scandalized look, as if he couldn't believe I had just compared the esteemed council members to a flock of pigeons. I smirked at him, and he burst into laughter. After he became Hokage he said they were more like falcons. They reeked of plotting, tried to poke your eyes out, and then deposited a load of crap on your shoulders.

That was how it went, I gave Minato a tiny push, and he ran headlong into whatever catastrophe lay ahead and made it work.

"Butana-oji-san," Itachi, now five, tugged at my robe. He gave me a solemn dark-eyed look. I grinned and picked him up. He immediately latched onto my neck and gave a huge sigh. Itachi was the most solemn child I had ever met, but that might have been because he was mostly raised by his very serious mother.

"You'll spoil him," Fugaku warned.

"Itachi-kun is above such things like being spoiled." I grinned down at the kid, who was watching me with his calm eyes. He closed them and gave me a smile.

Fugaku grunted. "Tell that to Mikoto. Now, did you have a bad day, Hokage-sama?"

I smiled and sat down in the middle of the garden, Itachi held in my lap. He was warm and comforting. "How did you ever guess?"

"You always appear in my backyard and squeeze my kid when you've had a hard day." Fugaku looked back at me and smiled. I stuck my tongue out at him, and watched as he ambled over and sat down in front of me. He held out his hand to Itachi, who yawned and leaned back against my chest.

"Itachi-kun likes me best," I crowed, hugging the child to my chest. I gave his downy soft head a kiss and gave Fugaku a wicked little smile.

Fugaku rolled his eyes. "I can't wait for you to have your own. When's Kushina due?"

"October," I grinned like an idiot. "That's just six months away! Your kid will only be three months older. Itachi-kun, you'll have two little brothers!"

"Nn," Itachi muttered.

Fugaku smiled. "He's tired. Does 'Butana-oji-san' want to put him down for his nap, or shall I?"

"I'll do it. I think I need all the practice I can get, ne?" I struggled to my feet holding the limp bundle of Itachi. "Up we go." Itachi made some muttered noise, and clung to my arms.

"When do kids stop taking naps?" I called back to Fugaku, who was trailing us inside.

"It depends. Itachi loves his nap, and he really can't last a day without one." Fugaku pointed me towards Itachi's room, which had been moved since the last time I had visited. Itachi's older and smaller room was being given to Fugaku's new kid, who was coming in three months.

"His cousin stopped taking naps when he was four, but he goes to bed a lot earlier than Itachi ever does. The kid's a night owl," Fugaku said with some pride. A good ninja liked the night, and there was no doubt Itachi was going to be a ninja. He was already showing great promise.

"All right, to bed with you!" I sing-songed as I carried Itachi into his room. I flipped him upside down and dropped/put him down on the floor. Itachi gave me a look that said he was far too tired to deal with my antics right now, and went over to the corner of the room. I helped him pull out the futon and tucked him under the blankets. I crouched, looking at him, his still-chubby hand up by his round little face. He looked so young and innocent. I smiled.

Itachi cracked an eye open and looked at me. "You have to sing a lullabye."

I blinked. "I do?" He nodded solemnly. "Uhm....all right."

"It'll be good practice for when you have a kid," Itachi told me as he snuggled deeper under the blankets. He gave me an expectant look with his still open eye.

I cleared my throat and wracked my mind for a lullabye--one that didn't involve dismembering enemies. I started singing softly, unsure of what my voice sounded like.

'Nenneko shasshari mase,
Neta ko no kawaisa.
Okite naku ko no
Nenkororon, tsura nikusa.
Nekkororon, nenkororon........'

Itachi was asleep before the song was over, but I finished it anyway, and sat watching him sleep. I heard Fugaku pad in behind me, and lay a broad hand on my head.

"You'll have your own soon enough, Butana-chan."

I breathed out softly. "Fugaku, would you mind being the godfather?" Fugaku mussed my hair, and then crouched down beside me. His knees popped. I cast him a cheeky little grin, and he cast me a dark look. If Itachi weren't asleep in front of us I would have gotten a fireball in the face, or a fist at least.

"Sure, but shouldn't you be offering Jiraiya-sama the honor?" Fugaku had his eyes glued on Itachi, and he had a soft smile on his face. Those first few years of Itachi's life had been torture for Fugaku. He knew his kid was home growing up, but he couldn't see his kid growing up. They would forever be trying to catch up. I was grateful I would get to be with my kid while he grew. I would get to watch his first steps. I'd get to hear his first words. I'd rock him to sleep in the small hours of the morning. I would be a father--a dad.

I almost laughed. "Jiraiya would rather attend a council meeting, but if I ask he will. I'd rather my kid grew up in a more, erm, stable family if something happened to me and Kushina. I love Jiraiya, but, well, you know Jiraiyai."

Fugaku chuckled. "Sure, he's going to be practically living here anyway, isn't he, Butana-oji-san?"

"Watch it, Hatseun-oji-san," I teased, elbowing Fuagaku. He knocked me in the head with the palm of his hand.

Itachi twitched and seemed to be coming awake. I started singing the lullabye over again. Fugaku cast me a look with a smile hidden in it, and started singing with me.

'Nenneko shasshari mase,
Kyō wa nijūgo nichi sa.
Asu wa kono ko no,
Nenkororon, Miya-mairi.
Nekkororon, nenkororon.

Miya e maitta toki,
Nan to iute ogamu sa.
Isshō kono ko no,
Nenkororon, mame na yō ni.
Nekkororon, nenkororon.'

We both heard the door open and Mikoto calling she was home. Fugaku and I stood, padding out of Itachi's room with all the stealth of life long ninja and to the front foyer. Fugaku had a smile on as he walked around a corner to see his wife standing there. I felt a rush of warmth go through me as I saw Kushina standing by her. Kushina saw me and smiled.

"How did I know you'd be here?" she asked. "I met Mikoto-san in the market, and we decided it would be easier to find you if I came here."

I took two steps forward and hugged her, feeling the already-growing bulge of her stomach against me.

"Ah, Mikoto, Butana-chan has asked us to be the godparents of his and Kushina-chan's child," Fugaku told his wife, just loud enough for us to hear. I pried my face out of Kushin'as hair to look at her. Mikoto was much sterner than Fugakuu, but she cast me a smile.

"Oh, of course we will be, and I'm sorry we can't return the honor. My cousin is already Itachi's and this one's godfather," Mikoto patted her stomach as she spoke.

That was how it went, I made plans, and Fugaku was the back-up that never fell through.

Komnoha was beautiful, green, and growing. Massive trees towered over everything. Poeple swarmed the streets laughing and living. It was amazing. It was heart warming.

Konoha was burning. It was dying. I crouched in the lee of a building, and took a long draw from the canteen in my hand. The warm water did little to abate my thirst, and it did nothing to wash away the acrid taste of smoke in my mouth. I rubbed my face on the back of my ash smeared hand, and wished it weren't so hot. The October air was burning.

Two Uchiha ran by, one with a ghostly cat summons at her heels. There was so much to do. The Uchiha were in the thick of it again, trying to divert the blazing fires with any other ninja who were good at fire jutsu. Sometimes it worked, and sometime the fires rose up and devoured the ninja who tried to tame it. Sometimes there was still demonic chakra tangled in the flames, and it leapt back up the ninja-born flames to burn and kill. I had seen three people burned alive from the inside out today, and it was terrible.

I shuddered as I felt the press of demonic chakra on me. It was driving some ninja mad. I'd seen some war veterans broken down and sobbing because of the chakra. I felt like I was being suffocated. My own chakra felt like it was being crushed into a tiny space--compacted. It made me want to run--to get away from what was causing the feeling. I wouldn't run. I wouldn't budge an inch for the Kyuubi.

This was devastating. Konoha was still crippled from the war, and this. Now a demon that was laying waste to Konoha indiscriminately, killing ninja and civilian alike with ease. I took the last draw of water from my canteen and grimaced. I wasn't going to give any ground. I was going to fight for every inch of Konoha that burned. I was going to keep my village--my children's village from being destroyed. I had just finished fighting a fourteen year war so my children could grow up in a peaceful village. I wasn't going to let this demon drag their lives down. I'd do everything I could to stop it.

My kids would not be rushed to their death like so many other young ninja had. They were going to spend time doing boring Gennin missions pulling up turnips and chasing after lost cats. They weren't going to be crippled and hollowed by too much bloodshed too young. They weren't going to die before they were even thirteen. They were going to live-to grow. I'd make sure of that.

I stood, and nearly threw a handful of kunai as the Yellow Flash himself appeared in beside me.

"Shimatte! Butana-chan!" I almost scolded. Minato looked as bad off as I felt. I hadn't been this low on chakra since the war, and Minato was pale with purple bruises under his eyes. This was his village--his responsibility. Every death was one of his own. I heard the far away screams and winced. It was hard to believe only yesterday we’d all been laughing and happy.

"Gomen ne." Minato gave me a tired smile. "Just hold on a little longer. I'm going to stop it now, well, as soon as I get out there."

"And how will you do that?" I asked. Everything ached, and I wasn't as young as I used to be. Neither of us were. It would take us days to recover from this, if we survived it.

"I'll seal it," Minato replied. Of course, sealing was one of the things he was best known for.

"In what? The seal would have to constantly be maintained, and eventually it would break down. What could you possibly seal it in..." I trailed off as I realized what he held in his arms. "Minato, don't."

Mintao shrugged. "It's the only way, Fugaku. I have to." He was moving back.

"You'll die," I blurted out, feeling suddenly drained and frantic. The idiot, what was he thinking?

"It's me or them, and I'd rather it be me, Fugaku." Minato gave me a very clear smile. It spoke volumes. He had to do something. He couldn't stand here and do nothing. He could save them. He had to save them. I reached for him in one frantic moment of selfishness, and my hand closed around his coat. I looked down at the bundle in his arms, and felt a small smile rise on my face.

"Naruto, ne?"

Fugaku bent his head down, and his spiky blond hair brushed my forehead. "Hai."

"Congratulations, Butana-chan." I placed a hand on top of his head, and Minato cast me one last brilliant smile before he was gone.


I got back home before Mikoto did. She’d taken Sasuke and Itachi to a shelter. Luckily none of the flames had gotten close to the Uchiha district. After all the charred remains I’d seen today I almost cried when I saw everything untouched. Ash coated everything, but nothing was burned to the ground.

She brought Itachi and Sasuke in and put them both to bed before coming to find me. She stopped just shy of me, and looked down at the messy little bundle of blankets in my arms. I looked up at her, and tilted the bundle so she could see the sleeping face. "They're dead." was all I could say. Kushina had died soon after childbirth, and Minato...Minato had died the hero he was. Mikoto looked at me, and stepped forward. She took the bundle from my arms and smoothed the blonde hair back from his forehead.

"He needs a bath," she observed in a solemn voice. She cast me a look.

I shook my head. "We were going to make the guardianship official after he was born, and now...." Now there was no one to do that. I gently took Naruto from my wife. "I'll go wash him." Naruto felt like a fragile little doll in my arms. I kissed his ashy forehead and swore to Minato I'd watch over his little dandelion fluff. I'd watch him for as long as it was allowed, and anyone one who wanted to take the little fluff from me would have to fight for him.

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