Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. Never had, never will. All the characters in this fan fiction were brought to life by Kishimoto Masashi. All hail Kishimoto-sama! (bows in reverence)

I love Naruto. He breaks my heart ever so often and never fails to make me laugh. I dedicate this to him. =)

This is written as a prequel to the manga. Naruto had always been hated as a child. But behind all that there was someone who had always cared for him, watching from afar as the lost little boy grew up into the Naruto we all know and love today.

These are his thoughts...

x x x

Once in your Life

Maybe it was pity that brought me here.

I shrug to myself as the thought quickly dissipated into the cold air. Dwelling on such thoughts was unfair to you, I knew. But you are just a child, and I could not help myself.

Moving forward I inspect your only sanctuary. The room was quite small - enough for someone your age. A slow sad smile appeared on my face. Yes, it was indeed enough.

Enough for just one.

If the room had been any bigger, would this place still be your sanctuary? I couldn't help but wonder.

Knowing that you had room in your life for another but finding that there was no one willing to step inside. Maybe it would be too much for you to bear.

You are, after all, still a child.

I could almost imagine how being here must be like for you. I could almost feel the warmth radiating from the walls as you sat on your bed one hot summer day, or the comfort you felt as the heavy rain poured outside your window. It gave you a sense of protection, a sense of belonging. This room had embraced you many times whenever you were lonely and sad, hadn't it? It gave you what you needed. It gave you what the people of Konoha could not... what I could not.

What it must have been like for you to grow up this way - always alone and never having someone to come home to. I could not even begin to imagine it. Even so, I do understand why this place had always brought comfort to you. Although small, it was your own. And you belonged here.

It was your only place in the world.

And in your mind, it still is.

I step inside your small kitchen, like I always do each time I visit. Depositing the bag of provisions on the table, I leave. You would find them later. Then you would rush out the door and look for me. You always did. But I was elusive and you knew it was merely my obligation to keep you alive.

I'm sorry I never stayed long enough to let you know I truly cared.

Sometimes, I tell myself that it would have been better if I just took you in and provided the love I knew you deeply sought. But it was not that simple.

You were born special. Burdened by a curse that should not have been placed on an innocent child.

It was a responsibility given to you at birth. And because of you, the village was saved.

I remember when I first saw you - a vulnerable newborn who had just seen the world for the first time. Amidst all the havoc caused by the rampaging demon fox, your mother gave birth to you on that starless evening and died without ever having the chance to hold you in her arms.

Even then, you were alone.

It had seemed like a miracle during the time. The timing was too perfect. You were our last hope.

And so the battle began. It was a long enduring struggle for victory and many lives were lost that night, but even nightmares had to end. And it was a good ending.

Yes... it was a good ending. Undeniably the nightmare was indeed over for the villagers, but it turned out that yours was just beginning.

They hated you when you should have been a hero.

You were haunted by a past that you did not even know or choose. They did not understand, so they still feared the dark shadow that lurked inside of you. You were a victim of their foolish ignorance, despised by the very people you saved.

Sadly, you still are.

I wanted to protect you so I gave out an order - that no one must ever speak of the demon fox sealed within you again. Maybe then you would have the chance to start over the life you never led.

It was a naive decision.

You were probably too young to remember, but it was me who took care of you during the early years of your life. I could still picture your bright blue eyes as you looked up at me in that adorable way of yours. As I look back, I begin to wonder if it was destiny that led you to be the container of the Kyuubi.

Even as an infant you had always been an independent soul. You never waited for me to attend to your needs when you were old enough to do it on your own. You would always reach out for your bottle whenever you felt hungry or restless. You managed to learn how to crawl just so you could play with your favorite toy that was kept in the other room. And though I was pleased by your relentless spirit, I knew what it meant and I did not like it.

It was a tough decision to make but I knew I made the right one. And it was. So I let you go.

We parted then, and I never looked back.

At least I wanted you to think that.

It was cruel, I know. But the years that lay ahead of you are dark and chaotic, just like the day you were born. And it would be even crueler for me to let you face your destiny unprepared.

Despite the malice present in this world, life is precious. I wanted you to understand that. I wanted to tell you how people are and that you must always stand up for yourself and stay strong. Believe in your strength but know your weaknesses. Learn to seek power but never revel in it - I had so much to tell you. But I knew it was not my lesson to teach, and you had to learn on your own.

I am old, Naruto. And soon I will die. Had I been present in your life, would you still love this village after I am gone?

No, you did not need someone like me. But I felt that you needed to anchor yourself to Konoha. Learn to love them and they will learn to love you. Realize that nothing in this world came easy.

It will be a long journey. Nevertheless, I know you have the strength to overcome anything.

I wanted to believe that.

I guess I was just a naive old fool, wasn't I?

What followed after I could never forgive myself for doing. People might say that it was inevitable, but I knew that was just an excuse. Knowing what I could have done for you and how much love I should have given you - it was just too much for an old man to bear. You understand that, don't you?

So I began to forget...

And you were alone again.

x x x

Good as a stand alone or should I put another chapter? But then again, the emotions played here were already too much as it is, so I needed to cut it before the fic became too draggy.

Either way, do review and let me know you love Naruto too. (Weird request, huh?) Anyway, this is my first Naruto fic so please forgive any inconsistencies with the manga. Criticisms are welcome but no flames please.