Being and Belonging
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
A/N: This is my first Naruto story and I'd appreciate any feedback that I can get.
Summary: When Itachi leaves town on the eve of his parents' murder, he doesn't go alone. Can Naruto handle what comes next? "Ano sa…Ano sa, where are we going?"
Leaving the echoes of his parents' dying screams behind in his old house, Itachi stalked noiselessly through the night, smoky shadows molding and clinging to him in both the figurative and literal sense. He jumped, as silently as a cat, onto a nearby roof and hopped to the next one in a single leap, landing in a crouch, his red eyes gleaming dimly in the faint, wavering moonlight.
The village of Konoha was deserted at this time of night. The shops were empty, the streets deserted. Even the stray shinobi, patrolling or perhaps just returning from a mission, wouldn't be seen- not at this time of time. Of course, light would soon come, creeping stealthily around corners, slinking slyly up doors, filtering through besotted windows…perhaps, dawn would come even quicker today, heralded by the screaming of his younger brother as he woke from the genjutsu.
Itachi hopped down onto the metal grill of a particular apartment and carefully slipped through the cracked window, left open as a relief from the balmy night. Slowly, he pushed aside the coarse curtains, billowing through them like a vengeful wraith. Face twisting in disgust, Itachi warily stepped over several empty ramen cups and avoided all the dirty clothing draped carelessly over dark lumps of furniture and tossed next to the laundry bin as if someone had been too lazy to throw the clothes in properly.
Itachi strode through the kitchen, his footsteps not even a whisper in the dead weight of the apartment. He ignored the kitchen, with its peeling wallpaper and water-stained sink overflowing with dirty dishes and entered the side of the apartment obviously deemed the "bedroom". Lying on a lopsided, wrinkled futon was a small boy around Sasuke's age. He was entangled in light sheets so that only his solemn, whisker marked face and a tuft of spiky blonde hair, highlighted silver by the beams of moonlight, could be seen.
Silently, Itachi regarded the little boy sleeping innocently in his bed. What he was about to do was atrocious, horrible, unthinkable. It would mean changing a small child's life forever and it would mean taking him away from everything that he knew. It would mean putting the life a very young boy in grave danger for many, many years.
But…Itachi still had the dark red blood of his parents on his clothes and the horrified, rasping screams of his younger brother in his ears. He had already committed patricide- the lowest, most heinous, of all crimes. How much further could he sink?
Moving quickly, Itachi scooped up the little boy, sheets and all, and ran.
He didn't stop, not even bothering to look back at the place he had called home for so many years as he sped away, not daring to jostle the bundle in his arms. He ran until the gray sun was just beginning to peek over the faraway mountaintops, shining subdued light over the land. Here, he was far away from even the outer reaches of Konoha. He wouldn't be safe, though, not until he had left Fire Country completely. Not until he had reached those mountains in the distance.
For now though, he and the boy would be protected for at least another hour. An hour of sunlight before the running bean once again. The hunter nin wouldn't start looking until Sasuke had recovered his wits enough to tell the third hokage who had killed his entire clan in one night. Then they would have to order the strike team. All of this would take time, time Itachi was willing to spare.
Slowly Itachi laid the small child on the soft green grass, examining his surroundings. He was in a forest, standing in a oblong clove created by the encircling trees and bushes. The air was sweet with the scent of grass and animals; no human scents could be felt on the wind except for his own and of course the boy's which smelled distinctly foxy anyway.
Satisfied, Itachi turned back towards the boy on the ground and gently shook him awake. "Naruto," he whispered, "Naruto, wake up."
Yawning, Naruto stretched and blurrily opened his bright cerulean eyes in confusion. He was disorientated by the sudden change in scenery as well as the unknown person standing before him. "Who…who are you?" he asked sleepily.
"I'm a friend. My name is Itachi." Itachi answered, spinning his web carefully. Naruto had to believe him; had to trust no one except him. "You were in danger at your home, so I took you from there to save your life."
Naruto's impossibly blue eyes widened farther. "Why would someone want to hurt me?" he whimpered.
"There are bad people out there, Naruto." Itachi answered evasively, "I want to help you."
Naruto shifted suspiciously in his blankets. Adults had never wanted to help him before. "When can I go home?" he questioned brashly.
"You can't." Itachi stated firmly, hoping to end the conversation now. "It's too dangerous for you to return home any time soon. You'll have to stay with me."
Naruto sniffed suddenly, loudly. "I…can't- I can't go home?" Unshed tears filled his blue eyes, and slowly dripped down his face, flowing in rivulets down his whiskered cheeks.
"Why are you crying?" Itachi demanded harshly, "Are you not a shinobi? Shinobi don't cry."
Naruto stiffened. "I am so shinobi!" he yelled, tears forgotten. "I'm going to be Hokage and you're not going to stop me!"
"Right," Itachi said easily, "I'm going to help you." Naruto's eyes widened in disbelief. No one had ever taken that statement as anything other than a falsehood. "I'll train you, better training than you'll receive at the Academy, and you'll become a good fighter…at least, if you want to be."
"Yes!" Naruto yelled, his trademark wide smile, spreading on his face. "I wanna be good, the best." His voice lowered confidentially. "I want to show them all."
Inwardly, Itachi breathed a sigh of relief. This wasn't half as hard as he thought it would be. "You will." he promised. Then he stood up, searching the sky. The hunter nin were approaching. They had gotten together a team even faster than he had expected. Idly he wondered who was on it. Kakashi? Would he come for Yondaima's legacy to pay tribute to his fallen mentor? Or maybe-
Itachi shook himself mentally from his thoughts and held out his hand towards Naruto. "We have to leave." he stated calmly. "The assassins are getting closer and I might not be able to protect you from ten or eleven of them."
Biting his lip, Naruto's face lost its easy smile as he contemplated the hand in front of him. Itachi quivered with tension internally, strung as tight as one of his trip wires; if Naruto didn't come by will, then he'd have to take the boy by force and it would take Naruto a long time to learn to trust him again. Naruto, he had noticed, trusted implicitly without reason, but once that trust was foiled, he would never truly trust that person again.
"Okay." Naruto said decisively, deciding his entire future in a minute with the air of a child who really has no idea what they're saying yes to. Naruto grasped Itachi's hand in one of his small tanned ones, and gasped as Itachi abruptly pulled him up, the white sheets falling from him, leaving him in a brown shirt and blue shorts.
"It's time to leave." Itachi scooped Naruto up in one move and held him tightly against his shoulder as he began to run, picking up speed. Wind whipped against the pair, and Itachi saw Naruto lay his head against his shoulder and close his eyes tightly. Grimly, Itachi sped up.
"Itachi ni-san," Naruto called, the words being ripped out of his mouth as he said them. "Itachi ni-san, ano sa…ano sa…where are we going?"
To Be Continued…