Naruto flickered in and out of reality like a failing light bulb. One moment, he was staring up into Tsunade’s sweaty face and the next he was trapped in a complex network of twisting tunnels.
Then the screaming began and he flinched suddenly as though he had been hit. He fell to his knees and water splattered about the place - had he fallen? He thought he was lying down – and the trickle of cooling chakra felt like ice water sliding down his back. There was someone trying to help him up, a figure dressed entirely in white – wasn’t Tsunade just there? – and was replaced with a blonde woman once again.
The sewers registered again in his mind and the real world melted away. He covered his ears to drown out the painful screaming, the screams of a being betrayed, and felt a slender fingered hand on his shoulder.
“Naruto,” a harsh woman’s voice broke in helpless frustration.
“Naruto,” a soft voice murmured.
“Naruto,” a white haired man whispered, racing to his bedside.
“Minato!” The screams echoed in the chambers of his mind – mind? Seal – and ricocheted off the walls like a ping pong ball.
“I’m not Minato!” Naruto screamed. His unexpected words made Jiraiya and Tsunade stiffen in shock.
“You’re not,” The calming voice from before told him in a tone that sounded so familiar. He knelt down in front of him.
It was too dark to make out any of his facial characteristics, but his eyes sparkled like two bright stars. His spiky hair cast an odd shadow on the ground and Naruto could make out the strong, chiselled features of his face.
The man’s hand reached out, two fingers pressed together as if to poke him in the forehead. Naruto closed his eyes, awaiting the impact but they flashed open in surprise when instead the man’s hand ruffled his hair fondly. He could see the beginnings of a soft smile play across his darkened face.
“I should know.”
He was suddenly hurled from his world of sewers and back into one of sterile hospital beds and whitewashed walls. It felt as though he had lost a part of himself and he felt utterly lost and weak. He hated the feeling but as his gaze fell upon Yamato and the wooden stakes around him, he understood. He passed a tired hand over his dull blue eyes.
“Naruto, how do you feel?” Tsunade’s voice was unnaturally quiet. Jiraiya was as white as a sheet and avoided his gaze, whereas beads of perspiration trickled down Yamato’s flushed face.
The wooden statues rattled in protest before sinking into the ground and disappearing from view. Naruto’s restrained chakra returned to him in a faint trickle and Yamato promptly left the room after receiving a commanding look from the white haired sannin.
“I…” He trailed off in a dry voice, his head spinning slightly. An elusive memory flashed in his head for the briefest of moments.
Spiky blonde hair, calming blue eyes that seemed so dead and the rain was falling in silver streaks like a-
“Naruto?” she pressed him.
-a scene from an age old movie and he swore he had seen this scene play out before. A smile, a smile that he had only seen on the faces of parents as they looked upon their children, a smile he so desperately longed for was-
“I feel fine now,” Naruto answered. His voice had been sharper and curter than he had intended but mused to himself there was nothing that could be done about what had been said now.
If Naruto thought his voice had been sharp, Jiraiya’s could cut through marble without any resistance. “Where did you hear that name, Naruto?”
His golden brow furrowed in confusion and he asked, “What name?”
“Minato. Namikaze Minato,” Tsunade reminded him and Jiraiya’s dark eyes flashed in warning. The blonde haired Hokage ignored it.
“Minato…?” The name rolled off of Naruto’s thick tongue as if he were testing it for the first time.
-was fixed on his strong, soft face and it made him feel strange like he was actually loved-
“You were screaming it just a few moments ago,” Jiraiya informed him in a low, contemplative undertone.
The sewers flashed in Naruto’s mind and the Kyuubi’s tortured screams echoed in his ears. Naruto swallowed painfully and lied, “I don’t remember where I heard it…”
Disappointment shimmered in the depths of Jiraiya’s eyes and Naruto then ventured, “Who’s Minato?”
Tsunade began, “Minato is your-”
-a hand reached out to touch him and the rain fell in silver streaks, casting an age old flicker on the tragic scene-
“Sealer. He’s the fourth Hokage that sealed the Kyuubi in you,” Jiraiya interrupted before she could finish the end of her sentence.
It was Tsunade’s turn to be disappointed and she stared at the impassive white haired sannin with eyes that could make the strongest of men buckle to their knees. However, he avoided her gaze with the ease of a man with something to hide. A tense silence fell over the room and Naruto found the words that had been threatening to spill out of his mouth had fled in the presence of his unexpected answer.