Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto anime/manga/merchandise, and never will; they belong to Masashi Kishimoto. This was written by myself and is merely created out from my own crazy imagination.
No…not alone. Never alone. He was always there. Lurking in the shadows of his mind. Always, always there! He could run from the vengeful villagers, he could hide from the bullies, but the boy could never escape him…Kyuubi…
Uzumaki Naruto buried his head into his legs. The young boy, barely seven years old, was knelt with his arms wrapped around his knees behind a tall oak tree several miles from the village. His blonde spiky hair was a nest of tangles, uncombed for several days, and his black shorts and green t-shirt were covered in soot. He'd barely escaped…some villagers had chased him around the village, trapping him on the roof of an abandoned flat. In desperation the young boy had jumped down the chimney only to find himself trapped in a boarded up fireplace. It had taken him four hours to kick the boards from the front of the fireplace and after he'd finally broke free the boy had ran as far from the village as he could. No one had even come looking for him.
"Not that I care!" Naruto didn't even notice he was speaking aloud, suddenly punching the tree as anger surged through him. "They can all go to hell. I don't need them, I don't need anyone!"
The boy stood defiantly, his fist pressed into the tree. Although his eyes were closed he knew he was bleeding by the feel of thick sticky liquid trickling into the gaps between his knuckles. The rough bark of the tree had obviously cut into the boys small hands.
Several seconds of solemn silence were broken as Naruto sniffed, then choked back sobs. His eyes still closed the young blond collapsed onto his knees and began to cry. His bloodied hands were curled into fists and he thumped the dirt over and over, releasing the well of anger, hatred and defeat he felt the only way the boy knew.
"You know if you carry on doing that that wound on your hand will get infected."
A voice cut through the boy's cries. Naruto opened his eyes and raised his head so he could see the stranger:
The man was tall and had the unwrinkled complexion of a young man, most likely only in his twenties. His hair was sunbeam blonde and naturally spiky and his bright blue eyes were tinted with a glimmer of gold from the light of the falling sun. He was stood above Naruto with his arms crossed and a disapproving look on his face. Naruto had a vague feeling of recognition but dismissed it; certain he would remember the man if he'd ever met him.
Meanwhile the man continued to stare down at the young boy at his feet. His blank, nearly emotionless visage didn't show his confusion. The boy was staring up at him with large sky blue eyes, red rimmed with tears. Why was the boy crying? Surely the cuts on his hand weren't that bad? Maybe he was lost…
"Hey kid, where you from?" the man asked, sitting beside the boy. Naruto stared wide-eyed at the stranger and began to shuffle away from him, certain the man's kindness was a trick; the man was sure to attack him any second. No one could be trusted.
"Don't be scared, I won't hurt you," the man said, reaching his hand towards the boy. Naruto's eyes widened further as he glanced at the strange suspiciously. The younger blonde tensed the muscles in his legs; preparing to run.
When the man saw this he swiftly got to his feet and began to walk towards the boy. He was curious and somewhat worried for the child. Why was he so scared? The man's conscience would not allow a crying child, obviously in pain, to run into the forest; it was full of dangerous animals that would kill a kid like him in seconds.
Naruto knew, sadly from experience, that he couldn't outrun someone of the man's stature. His legs were too short, his appearance too eye-catching, not to be caught almost immediately. If only he knew jutsu and was able to perform the amazing tricks he'd seen the Anbu-sans doing then he'd be able to escape from the man easily. But Naruto was rubbish at the academy; teachers wouldn't help him because of who he was.
They – the teachers, the shinobi, the villagers, the old man –didn't realise he knew the cause of his pain, the endless loneliness he'd endured as long as he could remember. They thought he was unaware of what lurked within him; they thought he was too clueless, too dim-witted; to notice the swirling pattern with decorated his unblemished stomach whenever he practiced with his chakra. But he wasn't stupid, or dim; he knew he was a container for a demon – perhaps he was even the demon itself. He knew it like he knew he was an orphan.
Convinced fleeing would be futile Naruto swallowed what meagre pride his situation as a demon container allowed him and resigned himself to begging.
"Please…" the man heard the boy say in a quiet voice.
"Hey it's alright. I won't hurt you, I promise," the man said.
Naruto eyed the man wearily; a promise was a sacred thing even he respected.
"Yeah I promise," the man replied. Naruto narrowed his eyes, causing the strange to wonder at the suspicion he saw within their depths. The young blonde continued to examine the older man for many minutes before he reached a decision.
Rubbing his eyes, which were sore from his earlier misery, he smiled shyly at the stranger. No one, beyond the old man, had ever been kind to him before. Even the anbu who sometimes visited did no more than check his supplies and money before quickly leaving. But it was probably because the man didn't know who he was, what was sealed away inside of him.
"Well, where are you from?" the man asked again.
"Konohanogakure," Naruto answered. Naruto thought he saw something flicker in the man's gaze in response to the village's name, but it was gone before he could identify it.
"Konoha? How about I heal your wound then, and take you back to your village?" As he spoke the man's gaze trailed down to the boy's hand.
"My wound?" Naruto said; frown showing his confusion.
"Yes, you hurt your hand. Let me see. I can heal it for you."
Naruto nervously lifted his hand into the man's field of vision. The stranger's eyes widened; where there had once been an open cut there was smooth skin – the only sign that the boy had even been hurt was a red splodge where his wound must have been not minutes before. The stranger scrutinized the young boy for many seconds, surprised and wary of the boy's abnormally fast healing rate, before concluding that the boy must be the carrier of a kekkai genkai. It was the only explanation for such an astonishing feat.
"It looks fine," he finally said and Naruto dropped his hand.
"Konoha is this way. Come on kid; let's get you home," the stranger said over his shoulder as he headed into the dense foliage which covered the ground of the forest.
"Okay," Naruto said and followed the man obediently.
After ten minutes of silence the man said "Maybe we should hurry, we don't want anyone to worry."
"We don't need to hurry," Naruto answered, "As long as I'm back before nightfall they won't come looking for me."
"So your parents know you're out then?"
Naruto gave the man an odd look. "I don't have any parents."
The man looked over his shoulder at the boy – while he wasn't overly surprised that child was an orphan, since it wasn't rare for shinobi to leave behind children when they died, he was confused about something else.
"Who are 'they' then?"
"You said 'they' would come looking for you if you're not home by nightfall. Who did you mean?"
"The Anbu-san," Naruto replied.
The man stopped walking. He turned to face the boy with a strange expression in his steady blue gaze.
"Why have we stopped?" Naruto said, puzzled at the man's actions.
"Are the Anbu your carers?" he questioned, frowning at the boy stood so meekly before him.
"The people who look after you."
"Oh," Naruto rubbed the back of his head self-consciously, "I look after myself."
"What?" the man almost seem to shout his response and the sudden change of volume startled Naruto, causing the young blonde to take a step back from the clearly agitated man. The stranger, seeing Naruto's reaction, calmed himself before asking "How old are you?"
"I'm seven years, five months and three days today," Naruto said. Seeing the bemused look the stranger was giving him as a result of his precision Naruto shrugged and said "I'm good with numbers."
The man quickly did the math. "Your birthday's October 10th?" he said and continued walking, the boy at his heels.
"Yeah," Naruto said.
The stranger mused on the boy's birth date as they walked. October 10th was a very significant day in the history of Konoha – it was the day the hidden village had been attacked by the fierce nine-tailed bijou Kyuubi no Kitsune. Now he knew the young boy's birthday it was no longer surprising to him that the child was an orphan – why he was being watched by the Anbu though was an entirely different and intriguing matter. He wondered for a moment if the boy would answer should he question him on it but, remembering the trusting smile the boy had given him earlier, he shoved this thought away.
The pair didn't speak as they resumed their journey and before long they found themselves at the edge of the forest, staring down at Konoha spread below them. In the distance the man saw the heads of the former Hokage's carved into the rock face. One particular face caught his eye and he grimaced, quickly looking away from the frowning visage.
"Well this is where I say bye kid," the man said, reaching out to ruffle the boy's spiky hair.
Naruto looked confused at the man's caring actions, and then said "Aren't you coming with me?"
"Sorry but I can't. Got places to go. Don't worry you'll be alright, the gate's just down there."
"I know," Naruto said glumly, staring down at the village. "Bye then."
For some strange reason Naruto felt tears prickling at his eyes. Why was he crying? The man hadn't hurt him. Before the man could notice Naruto turned away and began to walk towards the gate, waving bye over his shoulder.
"Bye old man!" he yelled behind him as he walked quickly down the hill.
"Hey!" the man shouted in response, "I'm not old!" The kid turned slightly to pull a face at the irritated stranger. The man growled under his breath and moved to re-enter the cover of the forest.
However before he could vanish into the woodlands welcoming shadows his curiosity won out and he hollered "Hey kid what's your name?"
The boy didn't even turn around to answer; "Uzumaki Naruto. Remember it old man!"
The man, meanwhile, had halted mid-movement when he heard the child's name. Uzumaki Naruto? His Naruto? No, it couldn't be possible. No…his son…he'd been inches from his son without even realising it…no!
The man was tempted to call back the boy, his son, but reined back his instinct, reminding himself that it was for the best if his son remained unaware of his existence –it would only hurt Naruto in the end.
The Yondaime sighed, his gaze lingering for only a brief moment on the swiftly disappearing back of Uzumaki Naruto, before he disappeared into the forest.