Disclaimers: I do not own Naruto or any of the characters in this story.
AU. Why stay in a village that loathed him?
Pairings: Probably none. I find that pairings or focusing on them hinder my stories… so gomen nasai. ^^
Chapter 1 - Found
It was a sweltering summer day, especially more so since the boy was in a desert. Sand swirled in a foreboding breeze as a shadow from many miles away loomed closer. A sandstorm was approaching and he was not fit to be in a sandstorm, much less a desert, wearing a long rag that wrapped around his emaciated body. Thin, bony arms drew the rags closer to his chest as he stumbled in the sand. He desperately lifted dull cerulean eyes in hopes of finding shelter before the sandstorm reached him. Once shiny, bright golden hair was now tan and almost brown. As he gazed across the dunes, his heart sank. He might actually die. Although that in itself was not a bad alternative. However, the Kyubi inside him refused to die in such a shameful, boring manner and fed him chakra to continue trudging through the sand.
Shelter and a home seemed like a memory long forgotten, although it had only been a few months since his departure from the Leaf Village. But it could not be helped, especially with the Kyubi's exasperation at his own cowardice and being unable to defend himself against the genin bullies. After his failure of performing a simple bunshin and as a result, failing the shinobi qualification examination, the academy students who had passed attacked him by surprise when he had been walking back to his humble hovel. Kyubi had unwillingly healed his injuries then, and drove him to leave the village subconsciously. It was then that he knew something else was inside him. For it wasn't normal for someone to have a broken arm healed in one night. Especially if the bone was jutting out at an awkward angle. He also knew from this experience, he was not wanted in the village.
Why stay in a village that loathed him?
At first, his loyalty to the old man who gave him shelter and money to buy ramen detained him. But as more months passed full of snide remarks from the villagers, and cruelty from his peers, he finally heeded Kyubi's appealing entreaty to leave the village of the Leaf. There really wasn't much more a little ten year could do.
Kyubi was actually a very nice demon fox. Especially considering that Kyubi healed his wounds continuously and trained him to be stronger. Although it could also be Kyubi's self interests. The two of them had reached an understanding that they would remain together, even if the strange seal on his stomach would break. It seemed that Kyubi had a softer paternal side to him which flared to life when he was harmed by others. Of course, Kyubi's unlimited chakra also helped.
It was still difficult. Human food was a luxury. Until he had stumbled into the desert, he had eaten leaves and the bark off healthy trees. He had foraged for berries, nuts, and other forms of sustenance. They were all eaten up now and he couldn't remember the last time he ate anything. It could've been days, although it was more likely it had been weeks.
Wearily, he realized the sandstorm was gaining. He was exhausted, hungry, and even the chakra of the Kyubi could not empower him enough to escape the sandstorm.
He hated giving up and this helpless feeling of being powerless.
He detested being hungry.
And he extremely disliked the sand that was beginning to nip at his tanned legs that were unprotected by the sorry little rags he called his clothes. He closed his eyes in exhaustion and he fell forward to the hard, hot sand below. The least he could do was burrow in the sand and hope it would wash over him.
Speaking of washing. He hadn't bathed in weeks and mentally wrinkled his nose in disgust. Although had he been physically able to wrinkle his nose, he would have, except sand would leak into his carefully constructed last minute chakra barrier. He felt the sand beat on his back mercilessly and with a painful gust, the sandstorm tore away the precious rags on his back. Sand painfully bit into his now exposed back and he pursed his lips to withhold the urge to scream. Screaming wouldn't really help in this situation.
The biting pain lessened as sand piled up on him, burying him deeper and deeper into the dune. Trusting Kyubi to maintain the barrier, the boy fell into a fitful sleep as exhaustion overtook him.
He didn't know how long he slept. When he awakened, he was lying on his back, and the full moon smiled brightly back at him.
Something popped and he turned, startled to see a little campfire three feet away from him.
What is going on? He winced as he turned to his side to face the fire. A soft cloth slipped from his body as he turned, and he grasped the blanket.
It was soft… and he was wearing clothes. He was wearing a loose black shirt and shorts what were two sizes too big for him. His clothes were smooth and soft.
He didn't know there could be anything this soft. Eagerly, he carefully wrapped the blanket around himself in the manner of a cocoon to retain as much warmth as possible.
Be on your guard, kid, Kyubi stated, wariness sharpening the echo of the demon.
It'll be all right. Sheesh, he thought back brashly, greedily appreciating the small comforts he was given. Who knew how long this would last.
Barely discernable footsteps were returning to the side, heard only because he had Kyubi's hearing. He froze, and sat up, on his guard and prepared to dash away, only to blink in confusion.
The stranger, it seemed, was a boy, who wasn't that much older than him. Well, if he could hazard a guess, probably around three to four years older than him and if anything, he was…pretty. There was a slashed Leaf protector gracing his forehead, and shimmering navy, almost black hair in the dim light, lightly resting on the sides of the stranger's cheeks. Twin scars ran down the face of this pretty person. He was wearing a loose cloak that whooshed to the gentle night breeze and covered any details about the stranger's body.
They stood silently measuring the other person's strengths and weaknesses. Both wary of sudden moves.
His stomach growled.
He blushed bashfully and looked up at the stranger hopefully. The stranger reached over to a pack he did not notice earlier, and retrieved a small packet. This was thrown at him, and hit him full on his face.
"Ow…." He muttered indignantly as he eagerly unwrapped the packet. Inside was some kind of square bread like thing, and dried meat. Eagerly he began chewing the food, heedless of Kyubi's insistence that he check if the food was poisoned.
It was really… really yummy.
Especially the bread. It was moist and it wasn't too sweet. He sighed in bliss as he closed his eyes to savor the exquisite taste.
"What's your name kid?"
He opened his eyes cautiously. The stranger's voice was a smooth, silky baritone, almost enchanting.
"Call me whatever you want. Besides, aren't you supposed to introduce yourself before you request the name of another?," he answered sharply. He winced at the childlike quality of his own voice. Granted, he was a child, but it was unfair that he sounded so immature.
He coolly, or as stoic as he could, stayed still under the speculative gaze of the stranger.
"Uchiha Itachi," the stranger answered dispassionately as he turned away from him to look at the moon.
Miffed, and embarrassed he mumbled, "I don't remember my real name."
"Speak louder kid."
It was a soft command. It also had a do or die tone to it that was really menacing. This guy was awe-inspiring.
"I don't remember my real name," he repeated, enunciating each word carefully, feeling extremely foolish.
That was it?! Just 'Hn.'?! He bit back a rude retort. He didn't think Itachi would appreciate the humor.
"Uzumaki Naruto," he said softly. "That was what I was called. But, it's not my real name. It's… co…con…contrived."
"Yondaime…" It was a soft slip of tongue that normal shinobi ears would not be able to detect.
Ara? He was confused. What did the oh so mighty and strong, but deceased Fourth Hokage have anything to do with the conversation?
"I will call you Naruto. Lose the last name kid," Itachi stated firmly as he lounged against piled sand, still gazing at the moon.
"Stop calling me kid! You're not that much older than me in the first place!" Naruto yelled out in frustration. He was always the underdog, the one teased and tortured. It just wasn't fair!
"Hn." Those discerning eyes were focused on him once again, and he shivered. He had a feeling those eyes were capable of killing intent.
"Ne… why are you here in the desert anyway?" Naruto was curious and anxious. His stomach was full and his brain was now capable of analyzing the weird situation he was in.
"I was looking for something," Itachi's voice was reflective and melancholy.
"In the desert? That's a weird place to search. How did you find me anyway?" Naruto asked bluntly. To his knowledge, he was buried several feet in sand. At least, that was what Kyubi told him.
"Your foot. It was an aberration and I pulled it up."
Surprise, surprise. His foot saved his life. Naruto decided to appreciate his foot more as he gazed at the blisters and hardened skin. It got him good food and company who did not despise him… yet.
"Sooo… did you find what you were looking for?" He asked warily. Those eyes were starting to bother him again. Was it possible for a person to hold a stare so long without sweating?
There was a long pause as Itachi turned to gaze almost morosely at the fire.
"Oh…" It was a space-filler and Naruto felt unsophisticated. He wondered if he would ever be as cool as Itachi. He glanced over at that casual grace, and leased power, evident in Itachi's posture. Would he be like that in four years?
"What was it? A treasure? A possessed sword? The elixir of life?" Questions flowed out of his mouth as he attempted to know about Itachi. Itachi would probably go away like all the others. Once he knew about him.
"Something my family was supposed to protect, but abandoned. A legacy of a great man," Itachi responded gamely. Naruto really appreciated the fact that Itachi was speaking to him. It had been too long since he had a conversation with anyone that wasn't the demon inside him.
"Who was that? Must have been an important person," Naruto wistfully stated, absorbing the beauty of the moon. Kyubi always loved full moons and it rubbed off to him. Unknowing creating a picture of a waif-like angel glowing faintly in the moonlight.
There was another long pause. But this one was heavier, more reflective and almost hesitant. Naruto stole a glance at Itachi's profile uneasily.
"You," Itachi stated in a final tone as he turned to look into Naruto's eyes. The expression was soft, and almost unfitting for someone of Itachi's possible caliber.
Me? He was searching for me? Something… was… Naruto stood abruptly, and began to pace in agitation. After years of neglect, spite, and hatred, it was a novel experience hearing that someone had been looking for him. Pent-up emotions from years of being on his own began to build up, and Kyubi attempted to console him with waves of tender chakra.
"I… I…," Naruto managed before he broke into a run.
The scenery blurred past him, not that there was much to see considering it was all sand, as he sprinted across the dunes with ease. He didn't know what to do, or how to respond to this kindness. Cruelty… was easier to figure out. So he ran in an attempt to deal with this newfound information. Someone had requested a family to care for him. Who was that someone? What did it have to do with the Yondaime? Questions burned in his mind and his heart felt pained as tears leaked from his eyes. When was the last time he had cried? He couldn't remember…
There was someone pursuing him.
Startled that someone was able to keep up with his Kyubi enhanced speed, he tumbled into the sand. Naruto spat out sand as he struggled to stand up.
"I will not lose sight of you now that I have finally found you kid," Itachi stated as he pulled Naruto to his feet.
Naruto stared at him in awe. Heedless of the sand that clung to his face and new clothes.
"You will travel with me."
He nodded in acquiescence and followed Itachi back to camp. Perhaps, Itachi wouldn't get sick of him or fear the Kyubi.
Hope flared in the darkest recesses of a heart pained by memories of darkness and rejection.
"Ne…," Naruto said softly, pulling on Itachi's cloak.
Itachi stopped and waited patiently for Naruto to speak.
He fumbled with his words as he whispered words he never dreamed to say.
AN: I know it's somewhat crazy that I am starting another story. I will continue working on the other ones… just please be patient and er.. understanding. ^^;;
Once again, I will only reply to signed reviews.
Background: In the storyline, Naruto is ten years old and failed the genin exam for the first time. It is here that the Kyubi reaches out to Naruto and the two form a love-hate bond causing the boy to run away from the village in fear of his own powers. Technically speaking, since Naruto did not graduate from the shinobi academy, he is not considered a shinobi and therefore is not a missing nin. The Uchiha massacre occurs when Sasuke and Naruto are ten years old. It was actually the result of a broken promise and a planned murder of Naruto, which upset Itachi in that his family was dishonorable and should die if they were weaker than him. Especially upon his discovery that the Uchiha clan was supposed to raise Naruto as their own. Itachi murders the clan and spares his brother in hopes that his brother would become strong enough to live alone, while he searched for Naruto.