Author's Note: Still sort of in the rough stage but....

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters.

Ichiraku

The owner if Ichiraku knows that the villagers hate the child. He knows that they throw glares, cold eyes, and spiteful vengeance towards the boy. He knows that everyday the boy is still lost and confused, and the villagers still haven't gotten over their hate.

But he's just a boy.

He's just a child.

The kid doesn't even know what he did wrong. The kid doesn't even understand why he's hated. The kid is alone and sad and can never know the reason why.

It is prohibited to tell him. It is unwise to even think of the notion. It is not allowed to be spoken of.

But someone has to. One day, the secret won't be a secret anymore. At least, not to the child.

Everyone who's seen the Nine-Tails, anyone who's lost someone/something precious to that event years ago, and any single one of them who still can't forgive - all of them were walking time bombs.

By making the subject a taboo, the Third had given those who hated, a motivation to talk about it. They are all now secure in the knowledge that they had power over the Nine-Tails. They were all now eager; waiting for the day they could bring the child's world crashing down around him.

The owner of Ichiraku doesn't like how there is so much hate floating around in the air.

He knows that by letting the kid into his store might mean losing some customers. He knows that by letting the kid stay and eat means that there will be some empty seats. He knows that by smiling at the kid, some of the villagers will blame him, but he can't bring himself to care very much.

The child was just a child. Lost and confused.

They were the adults, the older ones. What kind of example were they setting for other's to follow?

What kind of path were they paving for others to walk on?

He remembers the first time the child walked into the store. With eyes so big, figure hesitant and his hands trembling. The child (young then, so young. Almost still a toddler) had looked up at him out from underneath blond bangs; frightened, resigned and hopeful all at the same time. Like he half-expected to be kicked out/yelled at/banned, yet defiant as he glared at him, trying to make it seem like the world hadn't hung on the reaction he was going to give.

When he told the kid to have a seat and asked him what kind of ramen he wanted, the smile he was given was so brilliant it was heartbreaking.

The owner knows that the war might be over, but there is too much energy, too many bad feelings for it to be called a true peace.

His wife agrees with him, and doesn't mind when he lets the kid come and eat at their store. His wife doesn't give him glares and motions the kid out. His wife doesn't blame him for not charging the child more than what he does others.

His daughter doesn't mind serving the child. His daughter doesn't care about the stares, and glares, and accusations, because his daughter is mature enough to know that it is not her father's fault, and not the child's fault. His daughter smiles and laughs and talks to the little lost boy, and knows when he will call for seconds.

It was a pity that his daughter wasn't the boy's age then the boy would have had a friend. But in the end, she wasn't, and there was nothing they could do about it.

So he doesn't stare at the child when he comes into the store, so he doesn't make his noodles worse, portion smaller, or charge him more. So he doesn't think of hate, and spite when he looks down at the kid. So he doesn't tell anyone or make a fuss when the child sneaks in during academy hours, even if he should be in class. So he doesn't ban the kid and kick the kid out after his first bowl.

So ignoring what the villagers say, embarrassed but not shamed when the Third comes to his store and asks him about the child, he continues on as usual. And he finds he doesn't mind having the child coming back day after day, and doesn't mind selling the kid a few boxes of ramen to last him when the other villagers at the market decide they don't want the child's business.

So he finds it in his heart to accept the boy.

So he finds it in himself to acknowledge the child.

So he finds it possible for him to do what most of the village can't.

So he forgives and forgets.

So he offers Uzumaki Naruto a haven.

Because the child can't be the Nine-Tails all the time, it would tire anyone out.

Owari

Author's Note: Please R&R.