Tragedy prompts three young shinobi to escape their torment and join forces. Naruto grows up alongside his friends Haku and Gaara and he is finally able to thrive in the Leaf Village. The only thing greater than their combined strength is their friendship and loyalty. There is nothing they cannot overcome together, and while confronting adversity and enemies they choose to transform a forlorn past into a bright future. A story by Isumo1489 and tigerowl.

Chapter soundtrack: "Hoshizora" by Nao

Chapter 1- Child of the Water Country

Haku stared with wide gray eyes as his father lunged for him. The man had retrieved the knife that had always been kept in the storage shed and bore down on his child, the blade already tinted crimson. Forgotten in the corner lay Haku's murdered mother. Her bloody hand prints stained the wall beside her. The young boy was screaming as he stumbled in retreat, but beneath his terror he felt his insides boil as he was consumed with the will to survive.

"Mama! No! Please!" Haku dodged his father's deadly strike, tumbling down to the hard, wood floor. Still her body lay unmoving. Her face was hidden by the frantic tangle of her dark hair.

The boy backed away from his father, who was shouting unintelligibly at him to hold still. Haku cowered back to a far wall, bumping into a bucket of water his mother had brought in barely a half hour before.

Haku squatted in the fresh snow, curiously observing the remnants of a snow man he had made the day before. It had melted and then refrozen into a thin layer of ice in the frigid morning air. His mother watched him from afar as she fed the chickens.

Life on a farm was simple, peaceful and something she had always wanted for her Haku. Before she had made her home in the farming town with her husband, her life had been troubled by shinobi wars. So long as she drew breath, she had sworn, her son would have no part in the violence. She noticed him crack through the sheet of ice with a delighted chirp.

"Haku, don't play in that water, you'll catch a cold!" She called out to him. He was too busy playing to pay her any mind.

The cold water stung his bare hands and he drew them back in a startled gasp, "Ack!"

His interest was quickly drawn to the glistening, frozen puddle he had discovered. He traced a small finger over the surface and smiled sweetly at his rippled reflection. In a harmonious moment of nature meeting human inquisitiveness, Haku had inadvertently tapped his chakra for the first time.

A shining thread of water rose up from the puddle, surprising him. He watched in awe as the droplet followed gracefully as he waved his hand about. Haku brought up his other hand that was puckered red from the cold.

He slowly shaped the water with both hands as he would a handful of clay. It was fascinating how easy it was to manipulate, almost like magic. It felt like a natural thing to do.

"Amazing!" Haku purred in delight, attracting his mother's attention again, and she dropped her bird feed in shock.

She ran over to him and dropped to her knees, and watched in stunned horror as Haku shaped the water into a small sphere.

"Mama, look what I can do!" The boy was very pleased with his handiwork, "I have special powers Mama! I can make the water-!"

She cut him off, seizing both of his wrists. Haku looked up her, rattled, and the sphere splashed uselessly back into its place of origin. Her face was wracked with panic. It unnerved him; he had never seen her so worried...


His mother dropped one of his hands, and slapped his cheek in warning. It had been hard enough to get his full attention. Immediately, Haku squealed and recoiled in pain, cradling his injured face with his free hand.

"Mama..." He said softly, feeling a warm tear slide down his cheek, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do any...anything wrong..."

He looked up at her again, and saw that she had begun to cry as well. He was not able to understand it, that day, why she had been so upset by his discovery. Suddenly she pulled her son into a tight hug, burying her face into his ebony hair.

"Haku, never...never do that again, do you understand me? You must stay safe." Her voice was stern, but it cracked as she continued, "Please, never do that again…don't let your father see..."

He clung to her, sobbing, "Oh Mama, I'm so sorry. I...I promise, I'll hide it..."

"You little monster! Hold still!" His father swung his knife again, slicing Haku's shoulder.

"Papa no! No!" Haku was howling, terrified, scrambling along the wall. His shoulder throbbed, and his desperate screams went unheard.

The frightened boy tripped over the bucket of water his mother had fetched earlier and knocked it down. Its contents spilled out onto the floor, causing his father to slip.

The water.

His memory from earlier returned once he noticed the water. Maybe it could protect him?

"Papa, stop!" Haku cried out. He felt a magnetic and instinctual pull help him grip the water. His energy surged with a rush of adrenalin and something else…something that gathered in his stomach and flowed out to all parts of his body. The temperature in the house dropped abruptly, stupefying his assailant. A gust of wind swirled as a tremendous power drew on the moisture in the air.

"Monster!" His father was incomprehensible upon seeing his son's mysterious power.

Before his father could bring the knife down Haku let his instinct take over. His desperation to survive opened the floodgates of his power as energy poured out of him and ice pillars filled the room from all directions. The child's eyes were wide.

His father stood motionless and his weapon clattered noisily to the floor. Haku had impaled him through the center of his chest. Holes had been punched through the roof and walls. The young boy clapped his hands over his mouth in shock as he watched his father slide sickeningly down to the floor.

Haku hid in his room after he and his mother had discovered his power. He stood quietly by the door and eavesdropped.

"You lied to me!" His father's voice boomed, shaking him.

He heard his mother's response, "Darling, please…" She was crying, "I...I never knew it would be passed down to Haku...we are peaceful! You have nothing to fear!"

"You're one of them, one of those Clan people!" His father snarled. Haku could hear a glass object being shattered.

"Please! I never meant any harm, I'm sorry..." Her voice was pleading. Haku became extremely uneasy as he listened to his father's shouting. Never had he heard the man speak so angrily in his life. He knew something was very wrong.

"He's a monster! You're a monster!"

Haku's eyes welled with tears, 'Papa thinks...I'm a monster?'

"We'll keep it a secret! He won't hurt anyone..." She was begging now, "No one else will know..."

Haku listened and it was uncannily quiet. After a moment, he heard his father speak, " one will know..."

There was a pause, and then, his mother screamed...

Haku gasped, "Mama?" He raced out of his bedroom and into the fracas. He watched in terror as his father pulled a knife out of his mother's side and she slumped to the floor.

Utter disbelief was visible on Haku's face. He stood rooted to the spot as his father approached.

Haku trudged through the snow as tears ran freely down his bright red cheeks. His bare feet ached as he trekked through the snow. His farm was out of sight now, as well as his parents. Just as he had been taught that crops and animals could die, so too could his parents. Now he was alone.

"Mama..." He muttered to himself. He had never known such grief before.

He wandered all the way into town and fumbled along down the street. Haku then felt something cold land on the end of his nose.

A snowflake.

It was beginning to snow and Haku felt his heart sink lower in his stomach. Things were not going to get easier for him. His shoulder no longer hurt and had stopped bleeding, but he could not comprehend why his father had done what he did.

He dashed under the cover of a bridge and dusted the white powder off of his ragged clothes. Haku sat down on the ground, incapable of crying anymore. Instead he wondered how he was going to proceed. The temperature was dropping and his stomach was growling.

Haku could not deny his hunger.

"Oh, be quiet..." He mumbled. He sighed in exhaustion. It had been a long walk, and on top of his heartache he was cold and ravenous...

'What's going to happen to me?' Haku pondered as he felt his eyelids droop, almost considering a nap. A cold breeze instantly sobered him, and he scooted closer to the edge of the overhang. He sat in silence for a long while, until time seemed to lose all meaning.

After a while, snow thickly blanketed the ground. It was then something caught his attention...the soft treading of footsteps. They were close.

Haku watched as a man passed by. It was a very tall man with short, black hair. He looked formidable in a flak vest and his face was hidden by bandages. Haku observed with wide, discerning eyes as the man halted and sensed his presence.

The man with the bandaged face glanced over at him curiously and stared at him for a moment. Their gazes locked, and Haku had a strange unexplainable moment of kinship with the stranger. Haku could not put his finger on the reason why, but he knew that this person would understand him.

For a moment he was tempted to speak, but he thought better of it. Haku averted his gaze, nearly embarrassed. Disinterested, the man looked away, and as quickly as he appeared, he vanished.

Haku felt his insides twist. Something was strange about that man: plainly different from other people. He almost felt inclined to stand up and run after him. Maybe it had been a mistake not to ask for help?

Still, he hesitated; Haku had been just as intimidated by the man's gaze as he had been intrigued. To speak to him seemed nearly out of the question. All Haku knew at that moment was fear. There were other people in town: they might offer food or shelter, if he was fortunate.

Hunger took over his mind at last. Food was absolutely imperative for his survival. Haku stood up, and tottered out into the snow shower. He stood in the middle of the street where he had seen the man, yet it was now empty. Again, disappointment seized Haku. He had waited too long and now the stranger was gone.

Haku sulked down the abandoned road, his heart feeling numb. The snow may have begun to freeze it and now all rational thought seemed to be slipping away just as the tall man had.

Then...a smell.

Haku caught the scent of something edible. His head snapped to his left, where a garbage can stood. The boy experienced a moment of repulsion, hoping he would not have to pick through refuse to find food, but his empty stomach urged him on. On tip-toe the young child peered into the trash can, hoping for anything that would appease his hunger.

A growl came from behind him.

The dog was small but glaring daggers at him; likely just as hungry as he was. Haku would not have his one chance of nourishment be taken away. He was prepared to fight for it.

"This is mine." Haku hissed in a hoarse voice, "Don't even try it!" The mutt bristled, obviously starving. The child could sympathize for it on a small level. In a way, he and the dog had much in common. They were both alone, cold and famished. But Haku had something that the dog did not.

"I have special powers." Haku warned, hoping to unnerve an animal that had no ability to understand him.

It only growled in response, and then leapt at him, not at all threatened.

Haku's eyes narrowed. This was no challenge; he deserved to live far more than the dog did. Fighting was, after all, in his blood.

He evaded the dog's snapping jaws, and delivered it a rough yet ungraceful kick in the stomach. The animal crumpled to the ground in pain, whining pathetically.

Haku was startled. He had never had to compete with another for survival before. Earlier he had saved his own life and now he was struggling to make it on his own. Fighting, although instinctual, was still very new to him. It had by now occurred to him that defending himself would be one of his most important life skills.

Haku watched with sad eyes as the dog skittered away.

"I'm sorry." He whispered, feeling sympathy for the animal. Again he peered into the garbage can and did not find much that was edible.

However a half-eaten apple looked rather inviting, even if the skin was beginning to turn brown. Desperate, Haku lunged for it, snatching the precious morsel. He sat down next to the garbage can and sniffed the apple inquisitively.

It was not really fit for eating, but still, food was food.


Haku dropped the apple in surprise; he had not noticed anyone nearby. He turned and saw a man who he did not at all recognize. This one was an older, overweight fellow wearing a very concerned expression.

Haku regarded him carefully and said nothing, and then finally picked up his apple again.

"Boy?" The man repeated, "What are you doing out in the cold?"

Haku detected a hint of compassion in the man's voice. 'Maybe he has better food than this?' Haku wondered.

He put the apple down and looked up at the man with beseeching, storm-colored eyes.

His voice was soft, "I have no place to go..."

The fat man seemed alarmed.

"No place to go, little guy?" He was replied, and then asked, "Where are your parents?"

Haku knew the answer. Dead. But different words left his mouth, trying to cover up what had really transpired.

"I...I don't have any parents, mister." He answered quietly. The fat man nodded in understanding and a sort of sorrowful look came over his face.

"I'm sorry to hear that," The fat man said, "Well that makes two of us, then. I didn't have any parents either."

Haku's eyes lit up quickly with an idea. 'He's like me! Maybe I can stay with him!' He had passed up the opportunity earlier, and it may not be wise to do so a second time. If his survival depended on it, he would find someone to connect with.

"Do you have any food, mister?" Haku asked, this time in a bit louder of a voice.

The fat man seemed to have expected the question. "You look like you could eat a horse, I bet." The stranger said, "Sure! I bet I've got something to spare! Follow me."

Haku eagerly followed the fat man, his stomach writhing in pain.

He scampered after the man down the street and around a corner. There he beheld a large cart brimming with supplies, and yes! Food at last! Haku rushed up to the cart and helped himself, reaching into a paper bag, and withdrew a slice of bread.

The fat man chuckled, "Go right ahead. Take what you need. Here, let me fix you some of this stew. A friend gave me more than enough for my trip!"

Haku nodded while he bit large pieces out of the bread. His older companion spooned stew into a bowl for him and handed it to him with another slice of bread. With a sigh he sat down next to Haku on the cart and watched him eat. Sadness was visible in his eyes.

"You know, little guy," The man said softly, "You aren't the only orphan in the Water's really quite a shame what goes on in these lands. So many families have been torn apart…"

Haku sat quietly and listened, chomping his bread with thankful bites.

"When I was young, I had no one to look after me either," The man admitted, "I lost my parents and had to depend on a schoolteacher until I was old enough to take care of myself. I know how hard it is for you, and how hard it will continue to be for you."

Haku nearly choked on a wedge of potato and finally slowed down, carefully lapping up the stew and kept his attention on the man. The round man had possibly saved his life, Haku noted. Knowing his limitations and that he had won the stranger's sympathy, Haku decided to beg for the man's help, as graciously as he could.

"Please mister, you're very nice. I am a hard worker and I can read and write a little! I know that we just met, but…will you let me stay with you?" His voice was timid, nearly quaking.

The fat man observed Haku for a moment, still with those sad eyes.

"It may not do much good to stay with me. I'm sorry little one, but I'm afraid I have no shelter to offer you. I'm a merchant, and I'm on my way to Kuro to do some trading business up there. Nearly all I do is travel, and I haven't the money to buy a home yet. I may not be the person you can depend on." He explained.

Haku felt panic rise within him, and tears welled up in his eyes.

"Please mister! Please let me come with you! I don't want to be alone!" Haku squeaked as he attached himself to the sleeve of the man's yukata.

The man sighed again. He could not give the boy a home, but accompanying him was another matter. The poor child was only asking for companionship. He then nodded in acceptance to Haku, smiling wistfully.

"Alright then little fellow, don't fret! I'll let you come with me for as long as you like, or, until better care can be found for you." The fat man decided, "Do you have a name?"

Haku appeared overjoyed, "I'm Haku!"

The fat man laughed heartily at the boy's smiling face, "Nice to meet you, Haku!"

Haku felt a sudden swelling of hope inside his chest. "I promise mister, I'll help you with your work and I'll never cause you any trouble!"

In his excitement, he nearly tugged the man's arm off, but the man was only happy he could help, "Alright, alright, settle down there Haku! And my name is Hiroshi, if you don't mind."

Haku wore a jubilant grin, "I don't mind at all sir! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Hiroshi chuckled to himself and privately wondered what he was getting himself into. Haku was really a rather energetic and simple bundle of joy. It was not difficult to bring a smile to the child's face. And Hiroshi quickly realized that Haku had the same effect on him.

Next: Chapter 2- Child of the Wind Country

Notice: This story was first written collaboratively by Isumo1489 and tigerowl. While maintaining the integrity of the story, tigerowl has taken over completely with the permission of Isumo1489 in order to correct inconsistencies and other errors (per many reviewers' requests). Please enjoy the story as it was meant to be viewed and it continues in a sequel titled "Harbinger," which can be found at tigerowl's profile. Thank you for your support and reviews are welcome!