Parody/Humor with smatterings of some conflict for the characters so they grow. That's what killed my last one, No one really grew as a person. I figured it was time to fix that.

A Sideways Road


The blond man looked at the small child in his arms, face worn with exhaustion and blood streaking from elbow to fingers. The infant was asleep, white blanket swaddled around him, stained rust red and smeared with dirt. For a blond, the newborn had a lot of hair – most were born quite bald and stayed that way for years. Not this one. Hair like soft dandelion fluff swayed in the light breeze, Gamabunta the Great Toad smoking a pipe that allowed herbal smoke to wreath his head like a cloud, and the tired man holding the infant knelt half in supplication, half in heartbreak as he held his most precious person.

"...I must leave."

The blond looked to his enormous companion, peering into one eye as he held his son. The toad nodded calmly, methodically as he inhaled slowly. "Aye, my friend."

Sighing in resignation, the blond flipped to lay back on the ridge between eyes, the sleeping infant snoring away in his swaddling on the warm chest of his father. "I'm worried."

The Great Toad snorted gently. "No lies. You are scared, Minato – and with good reason."

The shinobi grimaced as he petted the swaddling of his newborn. "This is going to be hard. What do I even do with a child?"

Gamabunta would never belittle his friend for a rightful fear, but the great belly laugh this pulled from him jarred his whole body, head shivering and shaking as he bellowed his mirth, unable to be stopped as it rolled from the father of thousands. Minato was unamused when the squalling of an infant rent the air. "...DAMN IT, BUNTA!"


Sarutobi met with Minato atop Gamabunta as the sun started to touch the horizon. Jiraiya was on his way, but many a problem was easy to come across from one side of the village to another. An exhausted Toad Summoner lay still, a bottle held to pliant, suckling lips of his newborn all but empty. The elderly man smiled at the sight, his heart swelling with pride and joy in the young man who was still pushing forward with his life. The tragedy of Kushina would never be forgotten, however, and his smile dimmed.

Assassination. In her birthing bed.

His weathered hands clenched at the thought, his throat tight with emotion at the memory of the vivacious woman who had given his successor such hell. In a good way, that is. She never did back down when she thought he was being high handed or knew him to be wrong. He figured it was ill of him to be glad that Tsume and Minato never did become more than friends – the Inuzuka woman wasn't one to fight her Alpha despite all evidence to the contrary. Now, the man that he had chosen would have to learn everything about his child alone.
Sarutobi was only grateful that the switch had worked.

"Minato-kun," he said warmly, well away from the man as he roused the boy. Well, not quite a boy anymore, was he? "Come on, awaken for your poor dear friend."

The grunting of the blond man rolling over was enough of an answer, the bleary scowl from one hazy blue eye amusing to the old man in black shinobi garb. Groaning at the effort, the blond sat up slowly, cradling his child and rubbing his face with a bottle in hand. "Oh kami-sama, is it morning already?" A yawn stretched his face, jaw cracking. "Sweet merciful toads, why does the sun rise so fast?"

"Or so brightly, I might add," teased the elder man, taking a pipe from his pocket and lighting it quickly. A sweet scent like fresh honeyed tea and warmth was breathed out, mixing with the surprisingly healthy cloud from the Great Toad. "People are beginning to wonder if you are dead, you know."

Scrubbing his free hand across his face, rubber nipple leaving a drooling, milky smear on one cheek, the blond Yondaime sighed in frustration and soul deep exhaustion. "For all they will know, I am."

Sarutobi stopped puffing, brow raising as he looked to his successor. "Oh?"

The blond nodded firmly. "Yes. I have to raise Naruto – but here? He would never be safe." Rolling smoothly to his feet, the blood stood, babe in the crook of his arm, sleeping soundly even as bags weighed darkly under his father's eyes. "And...I've been warned."

This more than caught the full attention of the older shinobi, graying hair fluttering in the breeze and smoke making him look half vanished in a way. Like he was fading. Sighing wearily, Minato looked at his mentor. "He's going to save the world, 'Tobi. He is going to hold in his hand and cradle it like a precious, fragile thing where others would crush it. But he can't do that by growing here."

"Damn it," groused the older man. "I am – was through with this job, young man," he scolded quietly, pointing his pipe imperiously. "I don't want that damned hat back!"

Then he took the end back in his mouth, puffing hard and furious as he paced across the great head, muttering what sounded like foul obscenities under his breath. Minato held his son close, using the child to hide his silly grin, strained and a little broken, but real. The loud swish of fabric as Sarutobi turned to him was enough to help sober him. He was making this man who had retired take back his old mantle just so he could help his son fulfill a prophecy that might not even come to pass. Guilt churned in his stomach and he opened his mouth only for the older man to rap him on the nose with the end of his pipe. "No, none of that. I will, of course, take it back up. For now, not forever, understand. I will use the falsified records of your death to keep your son safe, but remember that the ruse will only last so long."

Then he sighed out long and heartfelt. "And...you were right."

His heart seemed to seize, his hands going numb as his head just...stopped, his brilliant mind halted with the fear acknowledged – there would be little to keep even a nearly dead Kushina from his side with their beautiful son. "So, he made a move?"

Sarutobi pulled deep from his pipe, exhaling through his nose not unlike a fire breathing dragon expelling ash. "Yes. It wasn't him doing it, but I know him. I know how he works. I would execute him now if not..."

Minato nodded. "You need to have just one problem that you know instead of the one that will blind side you."


The two were interrupted by the loud howling of a freshly woken, wet, hungry, and foul tempered newborn. While his cries were like a mewling kitten, the child's lungs were infinitely larger – there was no other explanation for how he was so loud. Sarutobi hid a grin with his fingers, pipe clenched between teeth so that he wouldn't drop it at the sight of his blond friend nearly panicking before he seemed to remember something. The sight of a milk-filled bottle puffing into existence was humorous.

"Ah, got that to work, did you?"

The blond gave such a scathing glare as he pushed the nipple into the infants mouth that Sarutobi felt as if his brows should catch fire. "I am not suffering sleep deprivation like you so giddily expounded on when I came to you panicking after finding out. I was nearly hyperventilating and you, you codgey old bastard, laughed!"

Sarutobi snorted, holding out his arms for the small body. "Give him here so you can pull out a nappy and pins. It's no good if the child gets diaper rash from the start."

Never had a child been passed so quickly, the new father plucking a scroll from an inner pocket on his vest, bright baby orange and blue – clearly Kushina's design. The old man felt his heart clench a little, the hauntingly mourning expression on his companion's face a stark contrast to his previous ribbing. The worst part?

The worst part was that his realization that his lover and fiancee was dead had yet to really grip him. That horror would be next in line.

Moments, minutes – they were the same where children were concerned – the baby blond was freshly clothed, swaddled in a pale yellow blanket, and chugging away on his second bottle. This child was clearly already suffering from the sealing for no mere infant would be able to eat so much already. Their little stomachs were barely bigger than their fists and this child already ate three times that.

Sarutobi only hoped that most of the nutrients were being absorbed and not...ah, expelled as it were. That would be hilarious and horrific in the best and worst way. Minato may never ask for another child if it were to come to pass...

Well, the older man sighed mostly to himself, if he ever found another woman he loved and respected.

"Wow, that is one set of pipes," stage whispered a third voice. Brow ticking, Sarutobi turned to his more exuberant student of days long past. "How ya doin', Sensei?"

Before the older man could open his mouth, Gamabunta threw in his two cents. "Ah, if it isn't the fly." Taking a long, deep drag of his pipe, the toad allowed it to curl through his nostrils. "Finally decided to buzz around like some menace, I see."

Jiraiya opened his mouth only for his sensei to bop him on the head less than gently, puffing away genially on his pipe. "Quiet, you. None of your nonsense today."

Even as he opened his mouth again, Minato looked at his sensei. "Really, Ero-sensei. You wouldn't even stay a day in the village when my – when Naruto was..." Grief clouded his features and he sighed. He couldn't do it. His heart was too broken and right now he held his child, the only thing of his wife-to-be who was currently...gone. "...I missed you."

Large, warm arms wrapped around his bowed shoulders, shoulders that shook with silent gasping sobs, the blond Yondaime tucked under Jiraiya's chin like a child. Naruto was snuggled between them, the tiny infant only fussing a little until he had a handful of white kabuki cloth, suckling his bottle placidly. Sarutobi sighed as he watched his two, well, they weren't his children, but they were his.

"Jiraiya," began the aged Hokage, "Minato is going to vanish for a while. You are going to be the one that has kept Gamabunta here all this time in defense. We have many enemies still – we want to appear as strong as possible, yes?"

The white-haired man nodded silently. It made a kind of warped sense. "Yes, sensei."

Nodding back, the man puffed his pipe. "Naruto is going to vanish for a while. You, my boy, are going to be seen with the child leaving the village. Training him, as it were. It will keep too interested parties away from the child here and allow him to be ignored since young Naruto will be close by here being raised by Minato-kun. This means you will be able to take some time and spy without anyone making connections – just don't wear your Kabuki makeup and clothing! Braid your hair and keep yourself under the radar."

The man pouted even as Minato snorted, wiping his eyes with his free arm. Jiraiya, under the radar? "I have a suggestion."

The old man let a brow raise as he urged his once Hokage on, the voice wet from tears and hoarse. "Jiraiya is needed to spy – why not have an ANBU take my son?"

The old man hummed as he bobbed his head, thinking over the idea with some merit. It would be strategic, really. But...would they go after the ANBU if they thought they had a chance at stealing Naruto – in effect revealing that it was a ruse? He contemplated the idea even as Gamabunta snorted – gently – at them all. "Just have a toad take the decoy."

The three human men groaned at such a simple solution. Grumbling at the three, the Great Toad blew a vast cloud of smoke into the sky. "I'm running low, Minato-kun. Make up your mind, would you."

Sarutobi nodded, plucked the Hokage hat from Minato's back, tapped out his pipe, and looked at the sky, the sun just now above the far horizon, long shadows of morning light stretching across the ground. Jiraiya plucked the dirtied blanket from the head of Gamabunta, swaddling it like it held a child. Calling up a middling toad to hold the false bundle, he saluted before jumping off with the toad following. The Great Toad nodded slowly, Minato falling in the cloud created by his dispersion, Sarutobi bouncing off after Jiraiya. It was time to enact their plans, sparse as they were.


Minato stood with his son held at arm's length from himself. The three month old was screaming very, very, very loudly and had been doing so for the past hour. He wasn't hungry, wet, dirty, or sleepy – the blond had tried all three. Er, four. Blinking in exhaustion – it was 3 AM – he stared at the ceiling.

"Oh my," chuckled a low voice. Sarutobi walked into the secluded little hut with a smile, dropping the hat from his head and reaching for the screaming infant. "Come here, my dear. Oh, shush now, come, sh shhh."

Naruto went from an eleven on the sound scale to a soft whimpering two near instantly. The elder blond sighed in relief and frustration, dropping into a large rocking chair with a whimper of his own. "Why does he calm down for you?"

The old Hokage tickled the baby into a high giggle, little mouth gnawing on fingers as chubby hands held thumb and pinky firmly. "I actually temp him with forbidden food, as you should know. Feeding him some every so often will not harm the boy."

"Nooooooo," moaned the blond man. Groaning in frustration, he rubbed his hands through his hair. "If I give him any ramen, he won't eat any of his greens or anything!"

Sarutobi grinned, plucking a packet of flavoring that he had specially ordered for this problem. "This is from Ichiraku Ramen Stand – Teuchi-san was kind enough to give some seasonings that you can use when you cook his food. A little in the stew pot and in the water when you cook will get him to actually eat what you feed him. He's smart, 'Nato-kun, feed him what he wants by using healthy foods. He'll learn to eat broccoli and will soon associate the good taste with the vegetables as much as the noodles."

The blond man chuckled at the whole idea but conceded the point – Feed the kid what he would eat or he most probably just wouldn't eat at all. "He's gonna be hell when he gets big enough to talk."

Sarutobi grinned wickedly as he played with the child. "Wait until he walks, then realize your error."


Six month old Naruto was trucking it, screaming gleefully as he squirmed into tiny, tiny spaces and under things and around and around he went. Minato was going to loose his mind.


The white haired menace of a shinobi cackled even as he swooped in, tossing the naked and wet toddler up with a loud gleeful squeal. Jiraiya winced a little, catching the boy and wiggling a finger in his ear. "Kami-sama, kid, where's the volume control?"

Minato came tottering up, barely on his feet. Feeling disinclined to actually take his son, he fell to his knees before flopping onto the ground face-down. "You have him today. I need a break. No naughty stuff. Sleeping now, okay?"

The older man just cackled more as he heard a deep snore from his once student. Shifting the kid on his hip and tossing his student over his shoulder, he made for the house. "Lets visit a hot spring, Naru-chan. I heard a princess was visiting near by."


Sarutobi grinned over the trussed up figure of his old student, suppressing his mirth by chugging away on his herbal pipe since Minato had been told the dangers of tobacco – damn Tsunade-hime! When the panicked blond had appeared in his home late that evening, he had assumed the worst. Tired, haggard, and all around babbling, the blond had laid out what had happened quickly earlier that day. Sarutobi hadn't felt so bad about "cursing" anyone with a child in decades – not since his own, in fact.

That Jiraiya had been added to the mix had made it absolutely horrifying for the younger man, pulling on his sunshine locks and generally freaking out. The third didn't blame him in the least.

So when Minato had finally gotten a hold on himself and sent out tracers embedded in seals located on Naruto's toes, he had been fairly livid. It was a bathhouse, alright, that pervy old hermit shmoozing up to the ladies with his godson and even getting cards with numbers and names. Sarutobi had quickly put his crystal ball behind his back at the murderous rage blotching the fourth's face. Well, then.

All of that had accumulated in this: Jiraiya hog-tied nearly naked at the feet of his sensei with Minato cradling his giggling, cooing son just outside of the bathhouse. It was adorable.

And, hopefully, the white haired menace had learned something inherent in staying alive – don't mess with cubs.


Twelve months. Minato threw himself into a chair.

Naruto was asleep with his giant blue turtle plush, a gift from before the self-exile from one Maito Gai (he had been bewildered by the size while Kushina had laughed herself nearly sick at six months pregnant). The dishes were done. The laundry was drying, the fridge was...ah, kind of bare right then but it was workable. The toys were up, the sun was gone, and the blond had never felt so tired in his life.

Missions? Ha! Missions were a cake walk compared to caring for a living human being twenty-four hours a day.


It was the anniversary of...of her death. Oh, it was Naruto's birthday and they had celebrated with his sensei and mentor both, but, with the lights all down and no happy cake-smeared toddler to care for, the realization of what the day was hung heavily on his heart.

"I wish you were here, Kushina," he whispered. He was silent a while, feeling his spine unwind. "He's our little sunshine and so much like you." Turning his head, he looked at a small framed photo of a red-haired genin with a bright smile so like their son's. "...I miss you."



Five year olds should not be able to cause so much mayhem and chaos on their little lonesomes. Rubbing his face with a sigh, Minato turned to the sound of his child peeking around the door frame to see just what was going on.


The blond blinked before smiling, bouncing into his bedroom, the orange smeared blue on his once pristine yellow walls making his happy. "My colo's! Boo and oh-ange!"

Wow, those Rs were just not coming to the boy. Then he groaned, coming to a horrible conclusion – this really was his wife's son (married yet or not be-damned). He supposed her might as well start painting the child's bedroom in "his" colors.

Just not so eye-watering.


Sarutobi knew Naruto had a habit of skipping off from his minders, them non the wiser. It had happened to him before and it had happened now. He had only looked up at the sound of a cart being rolled by and by the time he had looked back down, the blond six year old had vanished himself into the light morning crowd. Rubbing his face in exhausted frustration, he set off to look – more accurately, listen – for his blond charge. Surprisingly enough, it didn't take long to find him.

Cuddled up to another child, no less. One that had been alone and crying and one of the clans' children. What was a Hyuuga doing this far from the compound? They were nearly at the Front Gates! Concern filling his old heart, he looked at the child only to swallow a gasp at the sight of bruising and spots that indicated blocked tenketsu.

And it was the heiress.


"Can I keep my friend, Jiji? Can I, can I, please?"

Well, he never could say no to his favorite blond...


"I can't believe you let my son 'keep' another kid! If it was Jiraiya, I would expect it! But you know better, old man!"

The "old man" puffed on his pipe, allowing his friend to wind himself down so that he could show the man just what was going on. It took a while, Naruto outside with little Hinata, playing in the mud and making an awful mess and loving every second of it. By the time to two tracked in to get cleaned up, Minato was finally calm enough to take them both into the bathing room, returning thirty minutes later with arms full of sleeping children wrapped in warm jumpers and a murderous expression on his face.

"She stays."

And that was that.


Naruto decided that sleeping alone was icky and had taken residence in Hinata's little bunk, the two curled around each other like kittens. Minato already had a book of photos that showed the progression from barely being able to be in the same room to the two becoming inseparable. Chuckling as he rearranged the pile of blankets and pillows the two slept on, he smiled warmly. Pressing whisper soft kisses to blond and blue-black hair, he left them to their own devices.

Kushina would be so proud.


Hinata had decided that she was going to have her ani(brother)-chan's eyes. The adorable pout she was sporting less than four months after her "rescue" was making Minato's heart thump almost unpleasantly against his ribs. The timid little bunny was actually a tigress in disguise, he found. And, just like a tiger, she was territorial about what was hers.

"But Papa-kun! Why can't I look more like ani-chan?"

Those eyes, big and cute and that lip quivering and his heart was going to implode, why has his girl so cute? What a distinctly unfair advantage!

"Yeah, dad! Why can't 'Nata-chan have eyes like me?"

The blond man was starting to sweat. Hinata was hard enough, but his darling Naruto too? He inched away, not realizing he was boxing himself into a corner until he hit the wall and slid as far into the corner as humanly possible. He would cover his eyes, but listening to the sniffles and whimpers was possibly worse.

Of course, kids come up with the damnedest solutions.

"Why not use a sealy thingy so that her eyes always match mine? OH! Oh, we could put them on her forehead or something! That way people won't steal shimai(sister)-chan's cool looking eyes! She said her old clan did it, but it was a mean thing cause it hurt people and if they put a sealy on her face it would make her cry. Would yours make her cry? Don't make her cry! Make it an awesome sealy thingy that keeps bad guys from hurting her and her bad clan from being meany poo heads!"

Well. He had a point there.

Had he breathed at all?

Still... "I'll see what I come up with, Naru-kun."

The dual cheers were something that oddly enough made him cringe...


"Papaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa," whined Hinata, flopping gracefully over Naruto who was doing his best to actually do his scroll work, the blond laying his brush on her cheek in retaliation, a sloppy circle blooming before he ignored her entirely – the scroll was more interesting.

Usually at this time of day, both of the ten year olds would be sitting in the living room doing various assignments from Sarutobi, Jiraiya, or Minato. Tsunade also contributed, though she didn't know it. The main reason Naruto hadn't seen a lot of his somewhat distant relative was more for the fact that she couldn't keep a secret like this to save her life. Oh, she could keep secrets, but the important ones came out when she was drinking. Minato, in his wisdom, decided that she would know the moment Naruto went to the Academy. The young blond hoped to be far away when that revelation was given.

"Do your work, 'Nata-chan. You both are going, no ifs, ands or buts about it."

The girl groaned, head falling and smearing the black ink over her face and Naruto's lap. The blond boy didn't much care. "But why? All those other kids are big butt-heads! And my clan will be so angry about me showing back up!"

The eyebrow crawling up his face was enough of an answer. They were going.

"Stop whining, shimai-chan. It can't be worse than being stuck alone, you know. We'll have teammates and make our family bigger!"

She had to concede the point there. She and Naruto were, for lack of a better phrase, bored with just each other. They needed challenges and challengers that were new and unpredictable. It didn't help that both were borderline genius in their fields of study and both knew the other preternaturally well.

Tomorrow was the first day of the Academy. They – meaning she – might as well get over it.




AUTHOR'S NOTE: Yes, I am rewriting the whole thing. I lost all my notes several times on the original one, everyone should know from the author notes. WELL, I finally got to a point that I could not make myself write anymore. I tried – Lord love me, I tried a lot's worth of tries. SO, I'm not asking for help – I'M BEGGING FOR IT, because I need it. I have the whole first arc up to Shippuden worked out. I'm just trying to get someone, or several someone's who will communicate with me to help me churn out the story and plug holes in my storyline. As you can see, it's taking a slightly different road – but I'm getting ready to start introducing the insanity. Poor Minato wouldn't be able to handle what Naru and Nata know without a bag of antacids.