A/N: Alright, so I'm taking a stab at Naruto fanfiction - an epic at that. Well, I plan for it to be; who knows how it will actually turn out? I'm not a big fan of AUs usually, but I just couldn't resist giving this a shot because it bugs me to no end how there's never anything really in depth about Naruto's childhood. Yeah, there's flashbacks of him standing there all alone and watching the other kids with families, but what about all the other stuff? Like who raised him? He wasn't living in that same apartment all his life, was he? Someone had to be taking care of him, at least until he was like five or something. And what about the seriously bad treatment of the villagers? Like, I know how there was a law and all saying that they weren't supposed to harm him, but some of those villagers would have tried to kill him, law or not. So this is my take on Naruto, how I think it should've happened. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto-sama. While I like to fantasize that one day I will be a great manga-ka, I am not Kishimoto-sama. Life is so unfair sometimes, isn't it?

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Prologue

Small wisps of smoke curled up toward the ceiling as Sarutobi sighed deeply through his pipe. He stood just inside of a cramped hospital room, looking upon its sole occupant worriedly. Half-healed scars and bruises littered the little boy's body, but Sarutobi was far more worried about the too-thin limbs and stunted build that was unusual even for a five-year-old - egregious signs of malnutrition. The various scars and bruises he knew would be gone by morning. They'd only been inflicted a couple of hours before, but already they were fading thanks to the demonic resident in the young boy's belly.

He'd barely been able to secure the boy a room in the hospital, and he'd had to make it a direct order to get the hospital staff to allow it. He hadn't bothered to demand that a medic attend to the boy. There was only one medic-nin he trusted enough to let near the boy, and she had disappeared a few years back. He idly noted that he couldn't even trust the various ninja he'd assigned to look after the boy in secret. They may have pervented any direct threats to his life, but they certainly had no qualms about letting the boy fend for himself if it was just a group of drunkeen civilians.

Stepping out of the room and withdrawing his pipe, he addressed the two jounin escorts stationed outside the door. "I need you," he began, indicating the one to his left, "To guard this door and make sure no one enters that room. Should anything happen, the fault will fall quite heavily on your shoulders, I assure you." The jounin nodded curtly, but Sarutobi didn't miss his fearful gulp. Turning to the other jounin, he stated, "I need you to find Anshi Hotaru and have her report to my office immediately."

"Right away, Hokage-sama," the jounin nodded before disappearing in a puff of smoke. Sarutobi replaced his pipe in his mouth and took a long drag from it before making his way back to his office at a leisure pace, going through all the possible scenarios of what he was about to set into motion.

A/N: Yeah, not much is happening yet. But that'll soon change. I hope. Anyway, review! And if you have any ideas for a title, they would be greatly appreciated.

Next chapter: -gasp- It's an OC! And character interaction between: Old man Hokage and OC, Naruto and OC, Naruto and himself! Okay, so that's more inner angsty monologue, but cares about technicalities anyway? And who could this mysterious OC be? Why, it's Sailor Saturn! Wait, no! She just has the same name. Sadly, madHATTER is terribly horrible at coming up with names. At least she managed to find a suitable last name that wasn't ripped from another anime.

-mH