The End is only a New Beginning
In a single moment, it all came crashing down on him and Minato fell to the floor, shattered completely at the sight. He didn't understand, couldn't understand how something so horrific could happen in the Village he gave his life to protect. He couldn't understand why the villagers, in their drunken stupor, beat a child, someone who could never protect himself, to the ground with absolute glee written on their faces. He couldn't understand why the ANBU, stationed to protect him, had turned a deaf ear to the cries and desperate pleads for help his Naruto screamed until his voice could no longer. Most of all, he couldn't understand why his last wish was so blatantly disregarded.
His son was a hero. His son was the reason he had been able to defeat the Kyuubi no Kitsune. His son was supposed to be loved and cared for because he was the jailor of the most powerful of all the tailed-beasts. That was what he wished for, for his son to be looked upon as the hero he was. Instead, his son laid lifeless on the cold gravel, forgotten.
Why... Why wasn't he treated as a hero? Why had Sarutobi failed to fulfill his final wish? Why had this happened? Where were his godparents? Why hadn't Jiraiya and Tsunade taken him in after his death as they were supposed to? There were no thoughts of vengence for his son, all there was, was pain and utter sadness.
In his agonizing mourning, Minato hadn't noticed the tears that streamed endlessly down his face, nor the soft touch of a hand grasping his shoulder.
He was numb.
It was only when the hand began to shake him lightly did Minato look up, his eyes mirroring his shattered heart, to the dark cloaked god of Death, Shinigami-sama.
"Mourn no longer, Minato Namikaze," the god said in an unearthly voice, "Kami personally took him from the mortal plane. His suffering is over." After an eternity of dealing with the dead, Shinigami still hadn't a clue with how to deal with parents mourning the death of a child. It was an unnatural occurrence. Parents were meant to outlive their children, the children meant to bury their parents, not the other way around. While it was true Namikaze had outlived his son, he hadn't been allowed to rest in peace like the other souls, for the price of the sealing denied him that.
Minato stared at the Death god, his words ringing through his ears in a loop until it finally sunk in.
"Kami-sama...took him purposefully?" he asked in a low shaken voice.
"Yes. The boy was too innocent. Naive. Forgiving. Had he lived any longer, he would have been dealt pain worse than death."
"He's... he...I-I failed him." His voice was broken, his head hung low in as unimaginable shame and guilt began to eat him whole. He had sealed the Kyuubi in his son. He had given his life for the Village naively thinking that they would accept him for the boy he was, and not the demon he held. He had killed his own son through his action.
"His pain in life was no consequence of your actions, Minato Namikaze, but the actions of a few who refused to listen to Hiruzen Sarutobi."
"So... he...Sarutobi-sama tried?" The god nodded, "I-I'm... I don't know what to feel... Happy he tried... or angry he failed..."
After a short silence, Shinigami-sama walked around to face Minato directly, his body shrunken down to the humans size.
"You have always been an honorable man, Minato Namikaze. The purest shinobi soul I have had the pleasure of meeting." Shinigami-sama said, breaking the silence, "Should you wish it, I shall take you back to the world of the living, to allow you to walk among man once more. To live, die, and see those you've lost with Kami once it ends again." At this Minato stared at him unblinkingly in shock, "But only through the life of your son."
For a moment, the once Yondaime was speechless. The Death god was giving him the option to go back, to live once more in his sons body. Then, once he had lived, in death he would be able to see his friends, Kushina, and Naruto. The answer didn't come as easily as he hoped. A part of him was screaming to accept, if only for the end benefits. The other wanted to deny the offer for it didn't know whether it would be able to stop from killing all those who had harmed his son. Yet, he could attain his sons dreams for him. He could change the views the Village had of his son, become Hokage once more for the sake of his son.
"Make haste with your decision, Namikaze, for the life of the body shall end shortly." In truth, Shinigami had his reasons for allowing such a thing to occur. Taking his mind off the mortal plane for just a moment had lead to the death of the "Chosen One," prophesied by Fate to change the very course of the world. Kami would not allow her purest soul to live through a lifetime of pain, and so it was his duty to convince this man to take his place. Such would be a suitable replacement, if not better. Minato Namikaze was a gem among coals in terms of souls. While he was naive in his life to certain extents, he hadn't a shadow of a doubt that he would change the world for the better.
Taking a single shaky breath, Minato said just the words Shinigami was hoping he would say.
Allowing a small smile grace his deathly features, Shinigami unsheathed his sword, and looked with a small amount of amusement at the wide eyed man in front of him. "Good," he said, "Goodbye, Minato Namikaze. We shall meet each other once again, but let us hope it shan't be soon." With a wide, frightening grin, Shinigami brought her sword down upon Minato, slicing through his body with ease, and watched as the body of a man become a small silver glow before it disappeared into the body of Naruto Uzumaki.
I look forward to seeing you live once more, Namikaze. Let us see what you do in the world.
That was the very first thing that processed through Minato's mind. Unrepentant, merciless pain. He could feel his body shake and twitch, the subtle movements giving him a clear feel of his body. His poor Naruto was so tiny. So small. So fragile. Taking a few calming breaths, Minato attempted to open his eyes, the sudden burst of white causing him to grimace and shut his eyes once more. After a short moment, he attempted again, this time prepared for the sudden onslaught of color and was able to adjust without much pain.
His eyes, or rather Naruto's, were met with a dull white ceiling that he knew simply all to well, and not just because of Naruto's memories (which were rapidly imbedding themselves in his mind) but because he had spent more than a fair enough amount of time in a room identical to the one he laid in.
Of course he would be taken to the hospital once someone realized he was in fact, alive. It didn't, however, mean he liked it. Appreciated, sure. Liked? Never. Naruto's memories of glaring nurses and sub par treatment from the doctors only made his distaste more pronounced. And as if on some unannounced cue, Hiruzen Sarutobi walked into the small room.
Conflicted from punching and hugging the man left Minato to simply stare as the Sandaime Hokage walked in with a grandfatherly smile plastered on his face. The "Naruto" side of him wanted to scream, "Old man! Come to get me out?!" while Minato was pretty sure he wanted to cause him physical harm. One thought was, however, agreed upon with both sides.
The man looked old.
"Seven years and you look like you aged fifteen. What happened to you Sarutobi?" Minato couldn't help but wonder, only to be brought back to reality when said man finally spoke.
"How are you feeling, Naruto?" he asked, sincere concern laced in his voice.
"'m fine." he replied automatically, his voice a little raspy, no doubt from the damage his vocal cords had taken from all the screaming. The slight frown on Sarutobi's face was enough to tell Minato that he didn't believe him. But what did he expect? Technically, Naruto died in that attack. He couldn't possibly be expecting sunshine-daisy, happy-go-lucky Naruto? From the memories he had from other encounters like this (which had him internally seething) this was how Naruto acted.
With a mask.
One he was determined to break. Just slowly. "Changing" himself so abruptly would leave some unwanted questions. He didn't plan on telling anyone it was actually him who was now Naruto. It would just cause trouble, and a lot of time wasted on explaining just how he came to control Naruto's body.
"I'm glad to hear that, Naruto." Sarutobi said breaking Minato out of his thoughts. "It looks like you won't be able to leave till tomorrow though." With that, Minato couldn't help but let a groan escape his lips. He was not looking forward to spending more than a day in the place. It wasn't as though they were actually healing him anyhow. From his memories, it seemed Naruto had an amazing healing rate. He chalked it up to a side effect of having the Kyuubi sealed in his body, as he did design the seal to kill the demon should he perish. And he doubted the Kyuubi wanted to die, so healing his vessel was one way to make prevent it from happening. Or make it easy...
"Sorry, Naruto." If going by the look Sarutobi had on his face was saying anything, he was quite amused with his unwillingness to stay in the hospital. "Rest and when you get out we can go get ramen." With the slight bags under his eyes, Minato could see that the man hadn't had a good nights sleep in some time.
Ignoring the promise of ramen, he asked, "How long was I out?" in a low voice.
The sudden question looked to have taken the Hokage back a bit, but answered nonetheless.
"Three days." his voice was controlled, but Minato could hear the concern and anger in it, however subtle it was. "So you really do care..."
"...Oh...okay." It was clear that his replies were becoming to worry Sarutobi, the creases in his face becoming more pronounced as the conversation went on.
"Naruto..." he bagan, sounding worried, "Are you sure you're alright?"
A part of him wanted to scream, 'No you f-ing senile old man! I'm not! I DIED!' but he restrained himself and answered honestly, "I'm just tired.." avoiding answering the question directly. He was sure if he did answer it, it wouldn't be that far off from what he wanted to scream.
Looking resigned and tired himself, Sarutobi said, "Alright, Naruto. Get some rest and I promise we'll go for ramen tomorrow when you're all better."
"Hai, Jiji." Minato said if only to set the man a bit at ease before closing his eyes and letting unconsciousness take hold of his small form once more. Before he completely drifted off, he could hear the soft click of the door shutting behind a retreating Sarutobi.
As soon as Hiruzen Sarutobi, Sandaime Hokage sat back in his office, he couldn't help but let his shoulders sag in relief and guilt. Naruto had been found in an alley way so...so broken. The blood loss was enough to kill his small body... coupled with multiple broken bones and internal injuries, he was nearly certain Naruto was dead. He practically fell to his knees when the thought came, only for it to leave with haste as soon as he saw the small, shallow rises and falls of his chest
As soon as they had gotten him to the hospital, he was put in intensive care, his most trusted doctors and nurses the only ones allowed to even go near him. From everything the boy had been through, he wouldn't put it past a close-minded nurse or doctor to kill the boy while he was unconscious.
How he wished things had turned out differently...If he had been able to explain to the civilians just what Minato had done to seal the Kyuubi before those blasted rumors had spread, then maybe they wouldn't be so hell bent on killing him. Yet at the same time he hated himself for being so helpless to do anything to make Naruto's life easier. He, the Hokage, had been put out by damn politics to help him. The Civilian council wouldn't allow him to be adopted by anyone. Even when there were a number of Shinobi clans who were more than willing.
Taking a deep breath, he couldn't help but be worried about how Naruto really was. He had an aching, heart-wrenching feeling that the boys innocence had been utterly destroyed that night. He could see it in Naruto's eyes. Once, they had practically sparkled with childish happiness, and mischief. But now, they seemed to have grown a bit darker, haunted...cautious.
He knew this day would come, what with the boy wanting to be a shinobi so he could become Hokage. He just wished it wasn't so soon. He had wanted to keep the boy innocent for a while yet...to be a kid for just a bit longer.
The Fates seemed to be working against him.
'I swear, Naruto. I'll do everything I can to help you.'he thought to himself with a determined glint in his eyes.
There comes a time when enough is enough, and he had most certainly had it.
Waking up with a groan, but most certainly feeling loads better, Minato opened his eyes to the same empty hospital room. It was official, he was in the body of his son, and would live in it until death. It wasn't some weird induced hallucination, or cruel illusion cast by Shinigami-sama.
This was real.
He needed to plan, to prepare.
For both Naruto and him.