Chapter title from "Black Black Heart" by David Usher.


Something Ugly This Way Comes

- 3 -

The three ninjas could have broken into the little home a thousand different ways, but in the end they knocked on the front door. It saved time and confusion and didn't immediately put the people inside on edge.

When the oblivious woman of the house opened the front door, Leaf jounin Umuino Iruka and his team were waiting for her.

"No…"

"Uzumaki Kana?"

"No. Please."

"We've come to take the boy back to Leaf."

Her husband, Haru, came to stand beside his wife, looking with horror from the face of one ninja to the next. "Please. This is our home—he is our son!"

"Did you forget your job? You are merely his keepers. It's time for him to return. We can take you with us, but the boy goes. There is no use arguing it. His well being and the thing inside of him are the only things that matter here. It is imperative that he returns to the safety of Leaf as soon as possible."

"But, why now? After all these years?"

"Just start packing. Take whatever you can carry on your back, nothing more. I'll explain while you prepare. You have 15 minutes."

"Yes."

---

Three blocks from their home and a million miles away, Naruto stopped like a rock in the center of the dirt road. His breaths came in and out in deep but even gasps, and his legs ached. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

The man in Naruto's path was bizarrely dressed and vaguely threatening. He wore sandals—he wasn't one of the ninjas from the forest. A huge peasant hat sheltered him from the sun, and a black cloak swamped his body. The man neither spoke nor moved. To fill the silence Naruto grasped for words.

"Who are you? Why are you blocking me? I—I have to go!"

"Uzumaki Naruto?" the man asked in a deadened voice..

"Who wants to know?" he snapped back. It was the wrong question to ask. Before his eyes could see it coming the man's had already lifted him by the throat with one hand. Panicking, the boy clawed at the stranglehold with his own much weaker hands, feet kicking and flailing to find the ground again.

With insulting calmness the stranger pulled up Naruto's shirt to examine his stomach. Wrapped in his own confusion and horror, Naruto didn't notice. He was focused on gasping for what he believed might be his last dribbles of air and trying vainly to kick his attacker in the face.

I'm dying I'm breathe dying he's going to kill me I can't breathe he's going to

The arm that held him high in the air jerked wildly, and Naruto felt his body fall as if it were a foreign experience, happening to someone else. He tumbled to his knees on the road, coughing and hacking. Strong arms surrounded him and yanked him swiftly backward. He opened his eyes to spotty vision. Before him two men and two women faced the stranger, taking turns striking at him in pairs. Three of his rescuers were in ninja uniforms, but the fourth was achingly familiar: a older woman with a mess of beautiful braids in her hair.

Naruto turned his head to look into the eyes of the man that held him close and steadfast.

"Father?" he whispered, before fainting entirely.