I do not own Naruto or intend to profit from this work. I only allowed the creations of someone else dance thru my imagination and they will be returned unharmed and unchanged after this flight of fancy.

The Will Born in Fire

The spy fled from the ANBU pursuing him. He knew that the masked operatives would catch him before long unless they were distracted somehow. His path took him over a yard with children playing. 'A school. Just perfect for a distraction,' He pulled out several kunai with explosive tags and hurled them at different windows that had class in session.

Naruto carried his few school possessions as the teacher led him to a new classroom. 'Failed a second time. I wish I could figure out how to do those stupid graduation jutsu. I did everything like Saito-sensei showed me and nothing worked. Maybe I am dead last like the other kids call me.'

"Cheer up Naruto. This class will be kids your own age this time instead of older ones like the first 2," the teacher said with a half hearted smile.

Naruto looked up at the teacher, focusing for a moment on the large scar across the man's nose. "I know, Iruka-sensei. I just wi-."

The explosion threw a door across the hallway and crushed both Naruto and Iruka into the wall. Iruka had taken the brunt of the impact and slumped unconscious next to the stunned blonde boy. The shouts of children filled the halls as they panicked and bolted from classrooms or merely lay stunned and wounded from the multiple explosions. In the science lab, spilled chemicals for flash bombs mixed uncontrolled and exploded in a larger fashion. The fireball filled the nearby hallways igniting anything that would burn and spread quickly.

Most of the ANBU pursuing the fleeing spy reversed course to head back to the school. The one wearing a dog mask increased speed and growled as he closed in on the enemy who would hurt children.

Naruto knew he needed to get out of the building. He looked at the man at his feet and back to the approaching flames. The teacher would die if Naruto just left. Naruto grabbed an arm and began dragging Iruka to the nearest exit. Other children just ran past without helping and nearly tramped the pair. As the flames closed in at the door, Naruto got Iruka into the open. The ANBU who had stopped as well as the teachers were directing Suiton jutsu at the flames but the heat of burning gas and chemicals minimized their efforts. Naruto got sprayed with a light blast of water as he exited and another teacher dragged Iruka further from the building. Screams of terror sounded from the open door behind Naruto.

'Those are little kids.' Naruto thought. Without a thought, he turned and ran back into the inferno.

The classroom a few doors in had a burning desk blocking the door. A dozen children about eight years old were trapped behind the flaming barricade. Naruto pushed the burning desk aside and let the children flee down the hallway. The blonde cringed in pain as the heat seared the flesh on his palms. One boy was huddled in the corner behind a burning joist. Naruto knew he could not move it enough to pull the cowering boy out. 'Kuso' he cursed in his head as his burnt hands painfully formed the hand seals for a kawarmi. The jutsu actually worked for a change and Naruto found himself in the corner with the young boy free. "RUN! Get out of here, kid!" Naruto yelled. The kid ran out, his strangely long scarf trailing behind.

Naruto made the hand signs again and switched places with a desk, freeing himself. 'I got it to work twice in a row, sweet' the blonde grinned. He got past the small flames in the room to get to the teacher. The teacher lay with her leg at an unnatural angle. Naruto knew the woman was not dead so he picked her up and carried her into the hallway. An ANBU took the woman from him and told him to get out of the building quickly. Another explosion rumbled from above. Naruto turned to follow the cloaked man when several kids his own age stumbled down the stairs.

The dark haired one led the way. His look of panic and the speed of his exit showed he cared little for the ones following him. Behind him came a pair of boys, one very plump and the other with a pineapple shaped pony tail atop his head supporting a blonde girl. Another pair of boys came after along with a pink haired girl.

"Where's Hinata?" the pink haired one cried out as another explosion rocked the building. Naruto shouted, "Just go, I'll get her." He ran up the stairs. The flames were even more intense on the second floor. Several fallen and burning joists littered the hallway and Naruto could see sky thru the smoke above. Naruto looked into several classrooms as the smoke got thicker and the building made ominous creaking sounds.

After a few minutes of searching the pained whimpering of a girl could be heard amid the crackle of the flames. Naruto moved past several fallen timbers and found the girl. "You must be Hinata." Naruto said quietly. The girl looked up at the blonde. Her pearl colored eyes met his blue ones. 'Wow, she's beautiful.' he thought.

The girl whimpered in pain again. "My leg is stuck." Naruto looked at the burning joist holding her leg. The leg itself was badly broken under the weight of the beam. Naruto saw that he could lift it but it would mean getting burned even more. He pulled off his orange jacket and laid it over Hinata's face and upper body to shield her from the falling debris as well as the sight to come.

Moving his body under the burning timber he raised himself up against the beam. The sound and smell of flesh being burnt made Hinata cringe but the weight lifted from her leg. She dragged herself away a few feet from the place she had been trapped but could get no further before passing out.

Naruto saw Hinata was clear and began to lower the beam when his jaw felt like it exploded. A second kick then impacted his chest, crushing it against the flaming beam. Several of Naruto's ribs cracked under the impact. An axe kick hit his head and sent him to the ground. Naruto managed to look up at the man who had kicked him. "Now I get to kill me a demon brat." The gray haired teacher had several small burns on his body but Naruto recognized Mizuki-sensei.

"Mizuki-sensei? Why?"

"You might not remember it but you are the monster that nearly destroyed the village eleven years ago. Naruto you are the nine tailed demon fox, Kyuubi no Yoko. Now you are going to die!" Mizuki's rant was cut off with a gurgle as the dog masked ANBU cut his throat from behind. Naruto just closed his eyes as blackness claimed him.

The village council of Konoha was filled with shouts. The attack and fire at the school had killed twenty four students, five teachers and left dozens injured. Of the injured, fourteen students still remained in the hospital. Only one remained with life threatening injuries. The building itself had burnt to the ground. The stories of what had happened were spreading faster than the truth. Sadly, it was the rumors that had brought many out to the council meeting tonight.

It was rumored that a fire had been started by a certain blonde haired boy. The Sandaime Hokage, Sarutobi Hiruzen sighed softly as the ANBU in the dog mask finished his report regarding the enemy ninja that really did the damage. The enemy was currently in the company of one Morino Ibiki. His death would be long and painful at Ibiki's hands.

In the back of the room, a civilian stood up and yelled, "Why did you save that demon brat…"

His rant was cut off as a kunai impacted his shoulder. "If another person maligns Uzumaki Naruto like that again, I will not use a warning." The low voice of the Hokage seemed to echo across the chamber. "That boy is a hero. Not only has his sacrifice protected this village from the day he was born, but yesterday he personally saved the lives of his teacher, the Hyuuga heir and a dozen first year students; one of whom is my grandson. In doing that, he sustained life threatening injuries as well as an assault on his person by a trusted member of the school staff. If he were a demon he would have sat outside and watched, not been inside the inferno saving lives. Naruto truly has the will of fire that many in this village are lacking. I personally will question the loyalty of any who speaks against him without cause from this day onward." Murmurs from the crowd rose again as the Hokage walked out.

In the hospital's intensive care ward, the blonde lay comatose on his stomach. The nurses came hourly to check on his condition and look over his burns. His hands had suffered badly with deep sores on the palms from the burning desk. His breath came labored as his ribs were still cracked from Mizuki's kick. The medics could not tape them as the burns on his back needed treatment.

Even after several visits by the medic ninja, his back was an open wound. The skin has been seared and destroyed completely through down to the muscles in most places. It looked like skin grafts would be needed to repair the damage. Normal wounds like cuts they still had the flesh intact to knit together. But with these burns, the tissue was completely destroyed. They were forced to make the body grew new muscle and skin. The best the medics had been able to do so far is re-grow some skin along the edges but this exhausted them after just minutes. Nearly a six inch wide band of flesh still remained to be healed. Even the legendary Tsunade would have trouble healing that wound quickly.

Next to him sat a young girl. Hinata kept leaving her bed to come back to sit near him. The bulky cast on her leg had several markings from well wishers already but she paid little attention to the happy drawings. She only wanted to see those blue eyes open and look at her again.

"You should really be getting some rest, Hinata" said a voice from behind her. Hinata looked to see the Hokage standing there.

"Hai, Hokage-sama. I just want to see him get better. One of the nurses told me that the building collapsed less than a minute after ANBU-san carried us from the building. If this boy hadn't come for me I would be dead right now. My cousin Neji had mentioned a blonde haired boy in the Academy. Who is he?"

"His name is Uzumaki Naruto. He is a very special young man, Hinata. Tell you what; I will have the nurses tell you when he wakes up so you can get to know him better. He could use a person like you as a friend." The Hokage then signaled one of the nurses to return Hinata to her own room.

Sarutobi stood there for long minutes after the nurse left with the girl. He just looked at the unmoving face of Naruto and hoped that the boy would wake soon. With all the energy Naruto normally had, seeing the boy motionless like this seemed unnatural.

Naruto woke slowly to find himself in a dank sewer lit by a dim red light. The hot heavy air did not really smell but it seemed to move slightly. In the distance he could hear breathing. Moving through the passages, eventually he came to an open area and saw a cage door rising up into the darkness. In the dark depths beyond the cage he saw a set of eyes looking at him.

"So, my jailor has decided to visit. How nice."

"Jailor? What do you mean? Is this some kind of weird dream?"

A deep rumbling chuckle sounded "If only it were. Then I would be able to wake up from it. But this is no dream, boy. I am stuck here in this cage, unless you free me from it. You just have to pull off that seal on the door and you will never have to worry about anything ever again."

Naruto noticed the seal on the cage door now. He moved closer to look at it before touching it. The touch tingled slightly and the seal felt warm under his fingers.

"That's it boy. Now just rip it off of there. That will fix everything."

Naruto stopped at the tone the voice was using. "This doesn't seem right."

"JUST TAKE IT OFF THE DOOR, BOY!" Naruto backed up at the face of a snarling fox appeared around the eyes glaring at him. "I WILL NOT REMAIN CAGED BY A MERE BOY. I WILL BE FREE OF THIS TO CONTINUE MY WRATH UPON THAT WORTHLESS VILLAGE."

Naruto just shook his head and kept backing up from the beast in the cage. Then, turning down one of the passages, Naruto fled.

Pain. Naruto opened his eyes again and only felt pain. His eyes cracked open to only see the floor. He lifted his head from the bracket it had been in and looked around His back was in more pain than he could ever remember having. The time he had gotten beaten up by some bullies paled in comparison. He groaned softly as he tried to move. Bands seemed to hold down his arms and legs to keep him in place. The air moving across his bare back seemed to burn as it passed by

Another groan sounded as a nurse came up next to him. "Naruto, you're in the hospital. You got badly injured in the fire at the school. Are you in a lot of pain?"

Naruto just nodded as the nurse adjusted something he could not see. "The pain should go down some soon. I have to go tell some people you have woken up."

Naruto opened again his eyes slowly and turned his head to look at his hands. They were bandaged tightly so he could not see the damage but they hurt only slightly compared to his back. Soon a bustle of activity that he could not see was going on. The bed began to rise up at his head so he could see people feet then bodies and finally faces. The smiling face of the Hokage was before him. "Hey old man, how's it going?"

Sarutobi chuckled. "Naruto, you seem to get into the worst trouble sometimes."

"You know me old man, if you want to get recognized, get in trouble."

"Well, what do you remember before you got in here, Naruto?"

Naruto was very groggy from pain and medication so he just stumbled along talking about the explosion, fire and his activity during it. Then without pause he told about the sewer and the giant fox and seal. "He called me his jailor, old man. What does that mean?" he asked in a confused voice.

The doctors and nurses in the room were all struck silent by what the boy had said. Most civilians believed he was simply the demon reincarnate with the power sealed away. The ninja trained medics knew better but still feared the boy was controlled by the demon he imprisoned. Between the boy's actions a few days prior and what the boy had just said made a few begin to rethink their own views.

Sarutobi sighed softly. "I had hoped for a few more years to pass before you found out about this Naruto. Eleven years ago, on the day you were born the village had been attacked by the Kyuubi no Yoko, the Nine Tailed demon fox."

"Yeah, the teachers at school talked about that. The Fourth killed it but died beating it," Naruto said, glad he had paid attention to that detail.

"That is the official story Naruto. The truth is even the Fourth was not strong enough to kill the creature. No mortal can kill a demon that powerful. Instead, the Fourth sealed the essence of the beast into a newborn baby. Naruto, he sealed the beast…"

"Into me, didn't he? That is why the thing in the cage called me his jailor, isn't it?"

"Yes Naruto, it is. I am sorry. I wish we had been able to keep that information a secret when you were a baby but somehow word got around. I had to ban all mention of the sealing from you and all people are forbidden to speak of it. I wish they had treated you better but even the power of a Hokage has limits."

Naruto thought in silence for a few minutes before replying. "Don't sweat it, old man. You did the best you could, I guess. That just means I have to work harder to get your job away from you. No demon fox is gonna stop me from being Hokage someday."

Sarutobi chuckled at Naruto's comment. "I think you just might make it with that attitude, Naruto." A muffled squeak sounded from the hallway as a wheelchair slid into view. Sarutobi looked and smiled again. "Come in Hinata."

The dark haired girl rolled into the room in a wheelchair, her leg wrapped in a cast. "Naruto, you have met Hinata already but let me introduce you officially. Naruto, meet Hyuuga Hinata, heir to the Hyuuga clan. Hinata meet Uzumaki Naruto, legacy of the Fourth and aspirant to the title of Hokage."

Both preteens blushed at the formal introduction and murmured a hello at each other as Sarutobi walked out of the room to let them visit. "How's the leg doing, Hinata?" Naruto asked.

"It is healing fine, Naruto. The medics healed the burns and the bones but are waiting a few days for it to get stronger before taking off the cast. Um, how is your back doing?"

"It hurts, a lot. The doctors gave me something that makes it hurt less but it makes it hard to think. No big deal there since I can barely think anyway." Naruto gave a weak grin at his joke until he saw the sad look on Hinata's face.

"What's wrong Hinata? You're too pretty to be looking so sad."

Hinata bit her lip and tears began to run from her eyes. "You should not have gotten hurt like this because of me. If I had not been so weak and gotten trapped, you would not have had to save me," she said in a rush.

Naruto paled for a moment before getting upset and retorting, "That's bullshit, Hinata! You're not weak because you got trapped. Anyone who says otherwise it full of it. When I found you, you were trying to get free. Your leg was broken and burnt but you weren't crying then. That's not someone who's weak. That's someone who fights what happens to them."

"But I cannot even defeat my six year old sister at taijutsu, Naruto. My father says that I am an embarrassment to the clan. I … I just cannot bring myself to strike her," she finished lamely.

"Having a kind heart is not a weakness Hinata." The voice of Sarutobi said from behind the pair. "It is the first step to having the Will of Fire. It is the will to protect those who are precious to you. You do not wish to harm someone precious to you. That is an admirable trait, not one to be suppressed."

Hinata nodded slowly. She was not entirely believing the Hokage but also not willing to contradict him. Naruto nodded as well but his eyes were dropping and he rested his head back on the headrest under his forehead.

"You will see one day Hinata. When you protect the people precious to you, the true power of a Konoha ninja is revealed. But for now, I think Naruto is fading on us. He has a battle of his own to fight over the next few weeks and his strength is not at its best right now."

"May I sit here for a little longer with Naruto?" the girl asked.

"For a little while, Hinata. But when the nurses say it is time to go, you listen. Even a Hokage cannot over-ride them on that."

(Edited and reposted)