I


The mirror's image, tells me it's home time,

But I'm not finished, 'cause you're not by my side...

- Arctic Monkeys, Why'd You Only Call me When You're High?


It all started after I unleashed the Kyuubi's chakra for the first time.

At first, it was a tiny headache. I barely noticed it as Kakashi led us off of the bridge, without so much as a glance toward the dead bodies of Zabuza and Haku.

It felt odd, to look at their bodies. So perfectly still. Peaceful, almost. At least they found their peace, even if it was in death.

The life of a ninja was rarely beautiful or elegant. Half of them were nothing but killers who put on the guise of being a good guy to fit their twisted fantasies. The other half were dreamers- people who thought they could change the world if they tried hard enough.

What a waste of time.

These dreamers, they wanted to try to give their life some meaning- to devote themselves to a higher cause. Funny. Most of the people who complained about life's meaninglessness found it difficult to even explain what they took the notion to mean from the start.

I glanced back at Haku and Zabuza, their bodies being covered in a blanket of snow. The sight should've felt new, shocking- I'd never seen a dead body before. I felt nothing, though. Nothing but a dull warmth- a feeling of remembrance, familiarity.

It was the oldest story in the book. Ninja used by employers and then cast to the side like week-old trash. You saw it all over the place back in the war. That's what started lending credence to this stupid idea that ninjas were nothing but tools.

In reality, that line was nothing but propaganda spewed by rich chavs, people like the Daimyo, and other illustrious members of higher society. They'd get the ninja to do their dirty work, and then kill them where they stood to avoid having to pay the piper.

It blew up in their faces, though, when some of the ninja started revolting. It was the one and only time the Twelve Guardian Ninja turned on their employer- it was a whole bloodbath. The harrowing event set the Land of Fire straight, but some seedy places like the Wave still showed remnants of that sort of mentality.

Zabuza and Gato being prime examples. They're both dead now, though, so I guess that goes to show that thinking like that never ends well.

Now, at this point in time, I still wasn't sure how I knew what the war was like at all, but they say ignorance is bliss, and I was going to enjoy as much of that bliss as I could before my life became one giant clusterfuck.

Kakashi must've run out of his patience by the time we got back to Tazuna's house.

He's got a few telltale signs of annoyance, but the big, glaring one was the fact that his little orange porn book was nowhere to be seen. That, and the fact that he was outright ignoring Sakura's incessant tittering instead of giving her half-hearted answers.

That girl could talk all day. I speak from experience because she has talked all day.

"We're heading back," He told us once we grabbed our stuff, leaving no room for argument. The damn scarecrow looked like he'd been running on fumes for the last hour, but none of us had the courage to say anything.

Tazuna nodded, thanking us profusely for helping him again. He promised to pay us the rest of the money when the Wave was a bit richer, but I didn't really pay him any mind.

Tsunami, on the other hand, caught my attention for some reason. She bent down a bit and wrapped me in a tight hug. I blinked, confused as I felt her curves press into me.

That felt a little different than it did the first time she hugged me.

Inari was next- he hugged my leg excitedly, trying to hide his streaming tears.

Good kid. I've always had a soft spot for little, fatherless kids, go figure. I feel like it's my duty to be a big brother to all of them, collectively. "It'll be alright, Inari. It's okay to cry when you're happy."

"I-I'm not crying!" Yeah, and my pant leg isn't wet. I grimaced as I looked down- why was this orange tracksuit starting to look garish?

Bad fashion aside, a smile formed on my face. Tapping his head, I said, "You'll be fine, kiddo. Get strong and protect the Wave in our place. Take care."

And we were off.

The four of us zipped through the trees at breakneck speeds. The feeling was starting to feel more natural for me now. My sandals would touch the bark of a tree for barely a second, before chakra shot through my sole like a jolt of electricity.

I was keeping pace with Kakashi, and I felt like I was just getting warmed up, too.

His lone eye regarded me with a barely veiled curiosity. "Naruto."

"Kakashi," I replied, the mild headache from before growing into more of a buzz. It felt like a light pulling sensation behind my eyes.

"How are you feeling?"

Headache aside, I don't feel too bad at the moment. "I've been better, I've been worse. Yourself?"

"The same, I suppose. There's going to be a lot of paperwork to do when we get back."

I laughed. "Well, that's why you're the jonin-sensei, right?"

"Unfortunately, so."

Somewhere in the back of my mind, a kernel of information exploded, and a wave of pain passed through my entire being. I inhaled sharply, and my foot almost skidded off of the branch I just hopped off of.

"Take it slow, Naruto," Kakashi told me without looking back. His body blurred from branch to branch, "You're new to chakra control. The last thing we need is for you to become a pile of broken bones on the forest floor. More paperwork."

Chakra Control…

A slight grimace worked its way onto my face. The pressure behind my eyes was building steadily at this point. Slivers of information kept flashing through my head- information that, as far as I could tell, I'd never learned.

I heard the voice of an older man in my head, his words bouncing off of the sides of my skull and reverberating through the rest of my head.

Through various methods, the most common of which is hand seals, chakra can be controlled and manipulated to create an effect that would not be possible otherwise, such as walking on water, exhaling fire, or creating illusions.

The voice paused, a deep chuckle following a moment later. Are you listening, Minato?

Yes, sensei- a second voice, this time. My eyes screwed shut- I felt like I'd heard this one before…

Good. Anyway, chakra takes time and a great deal of training to gradually build up. The key to its use is not actually having large amounts of chakra but instead being able to sufficiently control and conserve it. This is called chakra control. In order to have good chakra control, a ninja should only mold as much chakra as they need to perform a given ability. If they mold more chakra than is needed, the excess chakra is wasted and they will tire out faster from its loss. If they don't mold enough chakra, a technique will not be performed effectively, if at all, likely creating problems in a combat situation.

I blinked again, and the voice stopped talking. What the…

I can be dense at times, but I know there's no way that memory was mine. No way.

I didn't pay much attention in the academy, so all that information was new to me. The only thing that caught my attention was the name Minato- that was the name of the Fourth Hokage: Minato Namikaze.

Why did I have a memory of the fourth in my head?

Kakashi was looking at me with a pretty worried expression by this point. "Naruto?"

"I'm fine," I said, exhaling slowly behind gritted teeth. In reality, I felt like I was going to curl up into a ball and die, but I was fighting through it.

The trip back to Konoha passed in a haze of pain. We all said our goodbyes and walked off, and I ignored Sakura's wayward glance of concern at me.

I must not look that good. Eh. Not my problem, really.

A twinge of pain forced me to stop walking. Okay, okay. A slight problem, then.

My brain feels fried right now. I doubt I'm going to have the mental capacity to make myself some dinner.

Ichiraku's, then.

I stumbled my way there and plopped down on the first open seat. "You there, old man?"

Teuchi, Kami bless his soul, peered out from behind the curtain. I took note of the darkened sky- they definitely just closed. "Naruto! There you are! We were wondering where you've been."

I smiled, "Out on a mission. I just got back- did I catch you at a bad time?"

"A mission? Hear that, Ayame? Our little Naruto is all grown up!" I was rewarded with a hearty laugh. "For you, Naruto, no time is a bad time. Now, what can I get you?"

I glossed over the menu, acting like I didn't know all of the items by heart. I was feeling a bit different today. "I'll take a kagoshima ramen."

Teuchi's eyebrows shot up. His pen stopped scribbling on the notepad for a moment. "It's been a few years since someone ordered one of those."

"Minato Namikaze?" I wondered aloud, and Teuchi looked like I slugged him in the stomach. Yeah, big surprise there. "The Fourth."

"You're right…" Teuchi said, a little awkwardly. "How'd you know that?"

"Lucky guess," I smiled hollowly, blood roaring behind my ears. I swear to god I heard some chuckling in there, too. "Did you know him well?"

"Not really," He passed the note to the back. "Like the rest of our village, I thought the world of him as Hokage. It was a shame he passed."

Yeah…a shame.

The rest of the meal passed on pretty uneventfully- I caught Teuchi and Ayame whispering in the back, where they thought I couldn't hear. Well, I couldn't hear well but I could still catch some of the conversations.

"-acting different-"

"-think he knows-"

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what they're talking about. I may not have made heads or tails of what's going on yet, but I do know one thing- Minato Namikaze is, or was, I guess, my father.

I slurped the last bit of noodles bitterly. The Fourth Hokage- my hero, the one I looked up to the most, was also my father. Looking back, I don't know how I missed it. We're the only two people I've seen with hair that shade of blonde.

I dropped some ryo on the counter and left without a sound. A couple of minutes later, I was laying on my bed.

By this point, my headache was worse than any migraine I'd ever had. I tried to sleep it off, but I kept waking up, screaming bloody murder.

Memories were rushing into my head. Things I'd never even imagined before- a spiraling blue ball in my hand. The moon sitting above the trees, with some redhead in my arms. Yellow flashes, and the slaughter of ninjas. The Kyuubi standing in front of me, its eyes a menacing red.

The Kyuubi! All of this started after I accessed its chakra right?

"Kyuubi," I growled out, holding my head in my hands. "What did you do to me?"

Silence.

"Kyuubi," I demanded, my voice getting louder. I felt warm blood leaking through my fingertips from how hard my fingertips were pressing into my temple. "What did you do? ANSWER ME!"

There was a rumble in the back of my head. I felt my surroundings disappear, and I was dragged downwards into what I assumed was my own mind.

I opened my eyes to find myself in a dark corridor. I walked for a few minutes- it felt like I was being pulled towards the end of the hallway. My headache was nonexistent, so I took my sweet time getting there.

Eventually, though, I entered a room. It was a huge room, so large and vast it was that the ceiling was impossible to find. I looked at the cage that was glinting in the light of the room.

I don't know how exactly I knew, but I was certain I'd find the Kyuubi here.

I walked closer. A growl sounded from the cage, sending a breath of hot air into my face.

"What did you do to me?" I demanded, placing my hands on the cage threateningly. "Why did you give me my father's memories? Tell me!"

A chuckle echoed from the cage. "This is better than seeing you dead…Yondaime…"

"Shut up!" I snapped, not deterred in the slightest, even when I saw his glowing red eyes open from inside of the cage. "Why did you give me my father's memories?"

"How do you know I didn't give you your son's memories?" The Kyuubi countered silkily, another dark chuckle emanating from the cage. "No…as much as I wish I could take credit for this hell…you did it to yourself."

"What! I haven't done shit to myself!"

"But you have, haven't you? You sealed chakra imprints into your son's body. You imprisoned me here. And now, you deal with the ramifications."

"No, I didn't!" I screamed, anger coursing through my body like electricity. "I didn't do any of that!"

"Then tell me, why do you remember Kushina? The Masked Man?" Kyuubi said tauntingly. "Tell me, what is your name?"

"Naruto," I said, way more confidently than I felt, but the damn beast just laughed even more.

"Foolish mortal. You're as much of that annoying brat as you are his even more annoying father. This is an even better hell than I could've ever concocted for you, Yondaime."

"Stop…calling me that," I muttered, but I'd lost to him by this point.

"Why, Yondaime, I didn't know you were so sensitive," I caught a glimpse of orange tails swishing about. The fox was happy at my misfortune. Razor-sharp teeth formed into a smile in front of me. "Now, now. There, little Yondaime, there."

The echoing laugh of the Kyuubi faded as I felt my body begin to stir, and my eyes opened back to my darkened ceiling.


AN: This was an idea I'd been mulling over for some time. A take on jbern's 'The Lie I've Lived,' only set in the Narutoverse, instead.

I had fun writing it, and at the time, I didn't see a future for it. Now, though? Well, I've sort of run into some writer's block for TFOAC, and I think this could be a good outlet for me to divert my uh, writing juices, I guess.

See, with TFOAC, I have to write things in a really specific way. You know, to make sure there's enough symbolism and foreshadowing and all...I'm not saying this story will be crack, because it definitely won't be, but there's definitely an undercurrent of casualness and humor I can play around with.

Besides, this Naruto/Minato amalgamation is an OC, so I can also focus less on being that true to Naruto's original personality, which also makes things a little easier.

Pairings are open, so drop your recs in the reviews. I'm really only considering older women, though, cause it would be kind of weird for him to go after someone his age now...anyway...

See you soon,

Maroon