By readersdigest

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Naruto or anything it is related to except for this story, plot inclusive, nor do I care.

NOTE: Any explanation you are looking for can be found at the 'NOTES' section at the end of this chapter.


They were in a small alley, facing an apartment. The figures stopped suddenly, one strolling across, the others watching.

The figure smiled, stooped and peered towards the building, looking at the darkening windows, smirking as the figure's fingers trail across the smooth wood in its hand. The door was locked. He glanced at the sun, then hoisted himself onto the railing of the steps, one foot on the bar, the other hanging down nonchalantly as he waited.


Naruto Uzumaki stood in the small hallway of his home, checking himself one more time before leaving. He was a typical boy all except for his startling features- his clothes, hair and eyes made him stand out. He rolled up a small scroll he'd been reading earlier and picked up a sealed box.

Before he made his way to Ichiraku's Ramen for dinner, he was stopping off somewhere- call it private business, though one may wonder what 'private business' a boy his age could have. He simply had a few small errands to run, as far as he was concerned. It wouldn't take too long.

He opened his locked front door and saw someone sitting on the rails of his steps. They leaned forward from the shadows.

Cautious, he asked, "What are you doing?"

"Hello Demon" The man said with an evil grin. "How are things?"

Naruto halted with a gasp, eyes wide and staring, "No!" He really didn't think they'd be here. After last time, they'd stopped. Or so he'd thought.

Why do people hate me so much? The boy thought despairingly.

The man jumped down off the railing. His fist came out like a piston with vicious intensity. There was no warning. Just the body blow and an onslaught of pain.

The young boy doubled up, arms wrapping reflexively around his injured stomach, the breath taken from him by force. He slumped down to the ground, staring up at the grinning man with tears of pain and despair in his eyes, but refusing to let them fall. The tears and cries always made this kind of... event worse.

Three more faces appeared. Naruto knew what was coming. He curled in on himself further, his arms now shifting up up to protect his head as blows and kicks rained down on him, silently praying someone would save him.


"Ok" The first man panted, finally drawing back from the now bloody and bruised huddled shape. "That's enough. Yujiro - Haito - you take that box. Me and Jiro will finish up here with the demon-brat."

The man crouched over the still shape, ripping off anything that could possibly be considered precious, sifting through the items he found in the small figure's pockets, along with the keys to the apartment, dropping most things back onto the prostrate body after breaking anything he found useless to him.

"Let's go," he said, giving the broken form one last vicious kick before turning to leave.

'Jiro' pointed towards the house. The door was still open. "He might have some good stuff in there. We could trash it too," he panted, edging towards the apartment, a leer on his craggy face.

"No!" the man called, looking around with narrowed eyes. They had been lucky so far- but someone might appear at any moment, and they couldn't afford witnesses, no matter who it was. "Time's up, we have to leave. Now."

Jiro halted in the doorway a moment, looking at the man, before he shrugged and took off with his partner at a run, leaving the battered and bloody body of the eight year old child on the ground behind them.

Within seconds, both men were gone. Stillness descended on the quiet alley. Birds and insects returned to their normal duties, and within moments of the men's exit, one would not have known anything took place in the little alley, were it not for the blood that was slowly soaking into the earth beneath the small frame.


A man whose face was covered by a white mask in the design of an animal had noticed the group of men running away at a suspiciously fast rate, and had seen the flash of red blood on their clothing. Battle-sharpened eyes could not be fooled, and he knew, instantly, that the men had committed some act of violence. He looked towards their fleeing figures with a sharp glance, then in the direction from which they had appeared and considered his choices. Chase the obvious perpetrators of a violent crime, or find their victim? He made his decision and quickly made his way to the alley from whence the men had come.

What he found turned even his stomach, even with all he had seen and experienced in his life as a ninja. No sound came from the small beaten figure as he approached, but he knew from instinct the small form was still alive, and even conscious.

He knelt at his side, a hard glint entering his eyes at the thought of those who could do such a horrendous deed to such an innocent boy. "It's OK," he said softly, quickly assessing the boy. "They've gone now" he continued his murmuring of reassurances, though he held little belief that they would mean anything to the boy.

Gently, he turned the boy on to his back. Naruto was in fact still conscious, though barely. Badly beaten- bruised and bleeding from several places, with at least three obviously broken or cracked ribs. One eye was swollen and already closing, speaking of the severity of the attack and there was a two-inch gash along his forehead, blood flowing down his face.

Naruto squinted up at the man bending over him.

The face swam into focus. "ANBU-san?" Naruto whispered, slightly fearful. It wouldn't be the first time someone faked kindness or aide simply to hurt him further.

"Hai, chibi-san," the masked man answered, knowing the small, beaten figure before him. Then he picked the boy up, who whimpered quietly into his side, the small body obviously wracked with pain.

"Let's get you fixed up, chibi-san," the soft voice said, "that's a nasty gash you have on your forehead."

"Up.." Naruto gasped, trying to think straight and say something that made some sense at least.

He sighed quietly, his stomach churning and heart aching for the sight in his arms. "Come, chibi-san, I'll take you to Hokage-sama. We'll get you fixed up again, ne?"

Naruto didn't respond, but looked about ready to faint. The ANBU adjusted the barely conscious boy, carrying him with all the gentility of a parent with their newborn child.

A leap found them above, on Konoha's rooftops, littered occasionally with other ANBU and ninja, the occasional bird.


The trip didn't take long, but the small boy cocooned safely in the elite ninja's arms was either asleep or unconscious by the time they'd arrived in the presence of their leader.

"Hokage-sama" the ANBU greeted.

Sandaime Sarutobi looked up from a mission report he'd been reading at the almost-silent greeting and sighed sadly. "Again?" he asked, rubbing his eyes tiredly.

"Hai, Hokage-sama, if you would just let me-"

"You know I can't, ANBU-san, he begged me not to" the Hokage replied, sighing and looking at the small figure. "How is he?"

"He is injured, but you know as well as I he will heal sooner than most, at least physically," the masked one replied, voice slightly bitter.

"And at the Academy?" Sarutobi asked.

"I believe he-"

The boy chose that moment to wake, scrubbing his eyes in a way that made him seem even smaller, even younger. " 'Jisan?" came the mumble.

"Hai, Naruto-kun, I'm here. You're all right now. ANBU-san brought you here, do you remember why?" Sarutobi asked gently.

"Hai" came the soft reply. The sad reply. No matter what he'd tried, it never stopped, it didn't matter what he did. They always came, always hurt him.

"Could you tell me about it, Naruto-kun?" the old man asked, eyes on the downcast figure.

"Iie. Kuwashii koto wa wakarimasen. Gomen." The small boy's reply came, eyes downcast, unlike the usual façade he put on in the presence of most people.

(BASIC TRANS: No, I don't know the details, I'm sorry)

Sarutobi reigned in a sigh, "It's alright, Naruto-kun, I'm just glad ANBU-san found you when he did."

"Hai. Arigatou, ANBU-san," came the small voice's reply.

"Daijoubu desu, chibi-san," the ANBU replied, "Dou itashimashite."

(BASIC TRANS: That's fine, little one, don't worry about it/no problem)

"Aa" the boy accepted, nodding his head just a little, making both men present smile. Even after all the hardship, the young boy's resilience and innocence was still there.

"I do not think you should return home, Naruto-kun," Sarutobi stated, eyeing the young boy, "Is there somewhere you would feel comfortable staying?"

The boy shook his head softly, eyes still downcast, "Can't I just go home?" he asked hopefully. The small abode was not much by anyone's standards, but it beat the orphanage the boy had left two years prior after a particularly nasty incident, and it was his.

Sarutobi sighed, "I'm afraid not, Naruto-kun, it's just too dangerous now. That's the third time this week. If you would permit me to leave a guard with you at all times, I might consider it, but it's far too dangerous on your own. I don't want you getting hurt like this again. I hope you understand, Naruto-kun" silently adding 'and forgive me' in his mind.

Naruto kept his head down, eyes watering but refusing to cry. "H-hai, ojisan."

The ANBU member held back a sigh. "Hokage-sama, could I speak with you a moment?" he asked quietly, looking from the boy to his leader.

"Of course ANBU-san," Sarutobi agreed, wondering what his subordinate was thinking.

The pair walked to the other side of the office, where the ANBU member spoke in soft whispers. "Hokage-sama, I would like to watch the boy" he proposed.

The Hokage frowned, "But he refuses a guard, you've heard him. I don't want to go against one of the few requests he's ever given" Sarutobi whispered back.

"Hai, I understand. But if I could watch over him, he would not be hurt so often, and he wouldn't be alone," the ANBU said in another uncommon show of emotion.

"You would have to ask Naruto-kun. What would you do?"

The ANBU sighed. It was now or never. " Have him move into the Jounin barracks with me. You have my resignation from active ANBU duty if necessary, Hokage-sama. I respectfully request to be assigned a long term mission as chibi-san's watcher," he said in one breath. If he wasn't ANBU, he'd be nervous.

Sarutobi puffed on his ever-present pipe, seemingly thinking the request over. Suddenly, he straightened once more, turning to the boy in the room.

"Naruto-kun" he called.

"Hai 'jisan" came the tired reply. The young boy had been almost asleep when he heard his name being called.

"Come here, we have something we'd like to ask you" the old man said, nodding to the ANBU.

The boy made his way over and Sarutobi spoke as he wiped off the blood from the now almost healed gash on his forehead, skimming over the bruises as gently as he could. "ANBU-san here would like to watch over you. He wants you to stay with him. I told him he must have your permission, ask you. Would you live with him, Naruto-kun?" he asked hopefully.

The two men waited on baited breath, hoping for an answer that would allow them to help. Over the years, they had watched the boy be beaten down in more ways than one, always alone except for when he was here, trying so hard to be friendly and happy, always smiling when he was out or at the academy. In public, he was a loud, slightly obnoxious but friendly prankster, in private, he was quiet, reserved. It was a vast contrast and one that saddened an already old man to see in someone so young. He hoped the boy would not be consumed by his mask, but knew if things continued proceeding as they had til now, the mask would eventually consume the boy. True, it helped shield him from the outside world, but if he kept it up too long, it would eventually imprison him, and the bright child he loved would be no more.

The boy sighed. "Hai" came the soft reply.

The special jounin smiled. "Well, Hokage-sama?" he asked, victory in his voice. Finally, he could try to help the kid.

Sarutobi smiled, "I officially declare you guardian of one Naruto Uzumaki. Now how about you introduce yourself, starting with taking off that mask you wear" he instructed.

"Hai, Hokage-sama"

The mask was removed, and Naruto finally got to see the face of the man who, more often than not, had rescued him from villagers and ninja alike. Aside from jisan and Iruka-sensei, this man was one of his first friends, if Naruto dare call him that.

"Hello, Naruto-kun. My name is Gekkou Hayate, former ANBU, special jounin of Konohagakure."

Gekkou? Gekkou. He'd heard that name before, but where? Oh! The jounin who hung out together, he was one of them.

"Hello, Gekkou-san" Naruto replied quietly, nodding to the man.



Any Japanese used in this story is pretty self-explanatory even if you don't know Japanese when reading it in context. That said, sometimes I may include a note as to a rough translation for what is said.

On that same page, this is a fanfic and should be treated as such- it is something I often do late at night/very early in the morning or in very weird places not really conducive to fictional writing for my own happiness/peace of mind/semi-sanity. Feel free to question any references I may make, but note I don't claim to be a pro at anything- not even what I do day to day (smiles).

I do not guarantee (or even imply) that this story will run with the same storyline the anime/manga (either Jap. Or Amer. Versions) go with. It is, after all, FAN FICTION, meaning I don't have to care that in episode 121 or line 6 of page 92 of volume 4 joe kills schmoe but brings him back to life with a blueberry thorn. It is what it is, and that is fan fiction.

I welcome people coming up with concrit (constructive criticism) for my writing and will make the effort when I have time to reply and change any errors (which are likely to occur thanks to late nights, little sleep and so on. One big one is transposing (or sometimes skipping entirely) words.).


Seeing as how there's really no decent 'swappage' for honorifics from Japanese to English, here they are, explained.

-kun: usually used at the end of boys names to show familiarity or endearment/affection. Also used by some men with friends and when addressing someone of lower rank or who is younger.

-chan: used to express affection usually toward girls, but also pets, little boys & lovers. Also used for childish/cute implications.

-san: most common honourific, equivalent to English/ Mr, Miss, Mrs, etc. All-purpose honourific- can be used to show politeness between acquaintances, etc.

-sama: One up from –san and a sure sign of respect/status. Big 'R' in the respect with this one.

-dono: even higher than –sama, shows utmost respect. Originates from 'tono' meaning 'Lord'. Equiv. To Lord, Lady, your Highness, etc.

Bozu: used as a rougher/informal way of saying boy, kinda like in "Hey, Kid!"

Sempai/senpai: Used in reference to someone older/higher rank, usually at school or similar.

Sensei: used for teachers, doctors, masters at whatever profession, even the Jap. Prime Minister has been called 'Sensei'. In deference to higher rank/status as a teacher.

Anesan/nesan & similar: for girl, normally older, that means sister.

NOTE:: Anything else you can google to find out and you would find it. Or go to your local library for a jap-eng dictionary.