Disclaimer: The world goes round and I continue to not own Naruto.

Windschild8178: As was pointed out to me by a reader I've got too much background so next chapter will have the last of the memories from Yugito. I've still got a few more things to add to that before it's done.

Naruto: Thank God.

Windschild8178: On the other hand now the real fun can begin with everyone finally seeing some real good action! Drum roll please!

Naruto: Wait! Where's Fortuna16?

Windschild8178: Um…. Well. I sorta am gonna be gone for two weeks with no internet connection so I wanted to put this up quickly before then. So… Frotuna16 will join us for the next chapter! Plus fortune16 is super busy with school work right now so I would like to say Good luck with the Chemistry test and all that!

Windschild8178: My apologize to everyone about not including the soccer game in the last chapter, I planned too but it was 1 in the morning and I'd been writing for 6 hours strait to finish it before my classes workload was dump on me. I'm a history major so you can only imagine the writing I've got to do… Any-how I also got a review about my crappy fight scene. I'm terrible at fight scenes so I try to avoid it unless I think the story would really benefit from it. One of the reasons I went for an AU fanfic. I'll try my best to improve on that but you'll have to forgive me if the fight scenes aren't particularly good. Um… I also was told I need to update faster or else the flow of the story won't be grasped correctly from months in between. I completely and totally agree and I will try to make them faster but my collage stuff will always be my first priority no matter what. And also, I write fanfic to practice for my own original story that I'd like to publish when I think it's good enough so this will read like an actual book. What attracted me to Naruto so much was the fact that he's a blonde with blue eyes, just like in the story I'm writing though the character is different in personality. I'm also emphasizing a lot on Naruto's weight because my own character will be underweight but for different reasons. So I'm practicing with this to see if it's realistic or not. So far no complaints on how that's come about so I think it's alright. My original story is actually extremely different from Naruto but I love Naruto so I just decided to practice a few points from my own story. My apologies for using you guys like guinea pigs for my writing style though!

Naruto: She's also part of the newspaper at the University in the Life section, which she thinks is really cool. Her next assignment to report on 'Sluts.' She's very excited and wanted to brag a little. What she doesn't want me to tell you is that several of her friends pointed out several grammatical mistakes in her last article that serious bummed her out. On that note she would like to thank, thank, thank her Beta so much for working with her on this story!

Windschild8178: Oh! And the thing with Naruto's wrist in this chapter? Yeah that's from experience. Hurt like a bitch. Some big old manly pricks thought it was really funny to pick on a girl half a foot shorter than them. And if you haven't noticed I've been doing a trend through this story. First I worked on the relationship between Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura and then the relationship between Naruto and team 8 with some Sasuke and Sakura and now I've moved on to the relationship of Naruto and team 10. Team Gai is just worked in all around while Sasuke and Sakura (since I like them both but think their spoiled brats) are developing into my standard likable characters. I wanted there to be a connection between Naruto and the whole soccer team because I can't stand fics that automatically have the characters realizing that Naruto's a good person and that their all suddenly best friends. That just doesn't work for me. So it was a long drawn out thing to develop but I'm almost done with character development and will focus much more on plot. I'm very happy with how I did it though but I'd appreciate your thoughts on if you think it could have been done better or improved somehow.

Windschild8178: OKAY! I just found out that I've been spelling Chouji's name wrong this whole time. It's actually CHOJI, however, I am NOT going to fix it. It will stay this way because 1) I like it better and 2) Who the hell in their right mind would really go back and change such a simple mistake for over 200 pages of writing?

Chapter 7

Claustrophobia is so not fun

Every Saturday morning, no matter what, he cleaned the entire apartment, with the exception of Sigui's room, of course. It had been a fair deal, at least in Sigui's mind, that as long as Naruto cleaned the entire apartment once a week that Sigui would 'remember' to pick up some food for him every other day. Now this stretched the term food a bit. What it meant was that every other day Sigui would come home with a meal from some fast food restaurant or equally easy to pick up meal, dump it on the counter then grab a beer and slump down in his easy chair in front of the television. Naruto would come out of his bedroom at the sound of the door opening, irritably see that the food was cold and then hungrily stuff it down as fast as possible. It was a routine that neither challenged because while Sigui hated going out of his way to grab the little brat food he knew the consequences that would happen if the brat died on his hands and Naruto didn't challenge it or demand something better because he knew if he complained he would not only get a good beating but Sigui would happily go out of his way to pick up something worse the next time. Two people who hated each other with every fiber of their being and were forced to live together did not work very well when one of them was one forth the size of the other.

Saturday was the only day he got two meals, the meal that Sigui gave him after he finished cleaning in the afternoon and dinner where most of the time Sigui would bring him along on whatever business he had to do (pick up information or drop off angel dust or whatever) and then the two of them would eat out somewhere, usually at an expensive restaurant since Sigui refused to eat fast food of any kind. It wasn't out of compassion of any sort, since Sigui clearly held none for any one but himself. The action worked as a crude leash, but an effective crude leash. While out and about on business Sigui would show case his cruelty, giving out harsh punishments to any person willing to defy him in any way. The second part of this leash was of reward. If Naruto didn't do anything wrong at all during the week the reward was that he got a second good meal. Starvation. Punishments. Reward of Obedience. Abuse to keep the opponent weak. Sigui explained to him once over dinner that it was the perfect way to train dogs and laughed hysterically at his own joke while Naruto sunk lower into his seat with the single wish for the ground to rise up and swallow him whole.

This was the reason that on Saturday morning Naruto woke up exceptionally early so that he could clean the apartment quickly, walk the couple miles to school and get to the soccer game before it started. The plan held several flaws though; 1) Sigui slept blissfully unaware of his intentions inside his room and if he woke up before Naruto left he wouldn't be able to go 2) If he woke up while he was gone Naruto would surely have his ass dragged back and then his ass handed to him 3) If he got caught by Nibi or Mizuki who might or might not be at the game it would lead to the same consequence as number two only he'd be likely to get a shock or two from that damned bracelet as well and finally 4) If after the game someone mentioned his presence at the game while Nibi and Mizuki were near it would lead to, you'll never guess this, getting his ass kicked. Naruto would admit without shame that this was probably the stupidest thing he'd done in a while, which most definitely said something.

Naruto cursed violently as he dropped the bucket of chemicals he'd used to scrub the floor all over the place. He'd been almost done damn it! Hurriedly he dragged out the mop, silently praying that he wasn't causing too much noise that Sigui woke up. The man drank himself to sleep so it wasn't at all likely, but Naruto was slightly paranoid after all these years. He ignored the ache in his hands caused by the contact with the acid based liquid without so much as a hiss and picked it up quickly, eyes nervously peering at the slightly tilted clock hanging by a nail on the wall. He shoved everything in the closet, including the still soaking wet mop, and scrambled into his room.

Quickly he stripped out of the shorts and t-shirt, his torn up back exposed and the back of his arms and legs an ugly sight to see, thankfully no one was around for that. Naruto coughed a bit into his hands, a horrible itch in his throat. He scanned his clothes for something that would cover them up, extremely conscious of how grotesque he looked and his eyes avoiding the mirror on the opposite side of the room. Sigui had put it in the room for the soul purpose of reminding Naruto of what he was. The man had commented numerous times on how exceedingly hideous he looked and thought it to be the most hilarious thing in the world, often wondering out loud how Kyuubi had managed to tear him apart so thoroughly without killing him. When the man had asked Kyuubi himself the man gave him a amused smirk but said nothing and when he'd threatened Naruto into telling him Naruto would merely go blank eyed and silent. Naruto never walked around without a shirt on, when he slept or just around the house he would always have something on, usually his orange jacket. He even tried to take showers as quickly as possible to avoid feeling the burned and ripped flesh under his fingers as he washed.

In the end he tugged on a turtleneck, long sleeved shirt with a strip of cloth around his forehead to cover the scar there and a long pair of pants. Out of habit more than need he also pulled on his large orange hoodie. Naruto checked the house twice, making sure that everything was cleaned before he slipped out the door. It was eleven and the game started at twelve, meaning he'd make it there about fifteen minutes late. It definitely wasn't good, but being there was better than not showing up right?

It was about forty-five minutes later into the walk that Naruto spotted something interesting. A city-bus stopped at a red light. He didn't have the money to board a bus but he noticed rather happily that it had a rather wide bumper and a handy rail just below the window. Naruto ducked behind a few cars and hurriedly went to the back, gripping the handle tightly and balancing atop the bumper on the balls of his feet, he looked back and gave the startled woman in the car behind the bus a wink as it took off. Until that day he'd thought buses moved relatively slow, but as the cement just a foot beneath him disappeared foot by foot at fifty miles per hour he quickly revised that thought and decided that jumping onto the back of a bus ranked even higher on the stupid raider than his little excavation to the soccer game. With that in mind, he jumped off at the next red light with jelly like legs and the woman, the same one he'd wink at, peering at him worriedly but with an underlying hint of amusement in her eyes. Never the less the ride took him within only a few hundred feet of the school grounds.

Naruto took several deep breaths, allowing his nerves to settle down and legs to solidify beneath him once more. Five minutes before the soccer game would begin. He could turn back now, go and walk right back to the apartment and pretend like he'd never left, like he'd never planned to come in the first place. He was sure that Sigui would still be sleeping off the liquor from last night. Naruto took one last breath and moved forward. He could see them. They all looked pissed off and periodically glared at this one poor little sixth grader at the end of the benches. He stayed back for several moments, just watching them all. He'd spent the last two years doing this. Watching his classmates interacting with each other and wondering what it would be like.

The car wash had been amazing, he'd talked and laughed with them, but it ended almost as immediately as it began. The moment after they departed it returned to the same routine. They hated him again, ignored he even existed until it was shoved into their faces once more. He wondered if Kiba, Shino and Hinata hated him too, for leaving with only a thanks and then when he declined to join the team. Even if he went out there he knew that when he got to school on Monday nothing would have changed. He was nothing and they were everything, he was the student accidentally thrown within their midst while they were the elites. People expected them to rise up and do great, to become doctors or lawyers and businessmen and woman, to continue their families' lines. People expected him to drop out of school as soon as possible or to become an addict or drunk. Naruto himself figured he'd be dead way before this and still wondered daily how he'd managed to survive as long as now.

While Naruto strove to survive each day they flourished in everything they did. He felt extremely out of place, he really didn't belong here, it wasn't his environment to be in. These people were innocent, civilized and cultured. They knew nothing about the workings of the world but everything about how to take advantage of it. Naruto knew how the world worked, could weave his way through it and survive in the harshest of circumstances but he could not move above those circumstances. He was bound to them, the darkest part of humanity slithering under his skin and always only a moment away from devouring him whole. Naruto took a step back, but quickly froze. Yugito. She thought that he could do it, believed that he could walk in both worlds, that he even belonged to that world. Naruto took a step forward and continued walking all the way towards it, towards them.

Naruto forced himself to keep his head high as he stopped in front of Gai, ignoring the hole that Sasuke tried to drill into his skull. Gai looked up at him happily despite the 'warm' welcome of most of his team. "Naruto, I'm so glad you could make it!" The man cried out. Naruto tried to smile at him, really he did, but it was difficult when he was scared shitless. His eyes roamed all around, searching for any signs of Nibi or Mizuki. It wasn't likely that either would be here, since they didn't know he was here and he doubted that Nibi checked the tracker every hour, but still… "I'm happy I could make it." Naruto said quietly, almost dismally. He WAS happy that he could make it even if he was terrified out of him mind. Naruto was greatly taken back when Hinata and Chuoji waved at him with smiles on their faces. The rest of the team's reactions were much more along the lines of what he'd expected.

"He never tried out couch! He can't play!" Sasuke snarled. Wow… someone really can hold a grudge. Maybe Sasuke should consider an anger management class. "Not to mention we've already got an eleventh player!" Ino added. At this everyone, including the eleventh player, looked at her incredulously. Now both Naruto and this eleventh player were scared shitless but for completely different reasons. Naruto feared cold-blooded murderers coming after him. Eleventh player feared being trampled by the big team across the field from them. Naruto, while scared, stood there in a relatively relaxed state while eleventh player shook like a kitten about to be eaten by a large dog with pointy teeth. So needless to say, while the others did not know these facts, Naruto felt completely and totally insulted. Under the gaze of everyone Ino backed down and muttered under her breath. "I didn't say he was a good one."

"Right," Gai said evenly. "I am sorry Barda, but I'm afraid that I'm going to let Naruto be the eleventh player for this game." Sasuke protested angrily, but Gai gave Sasuke a look that quickly shut him up. The said boy, Barda, gave a relieved sigh and ran for the audience benches. "If he didn't want to play that badly then why is he here?" Tenten asked. Sakura snorted. "Ino blackmailed him into coming," the strawberry blonde said simply. Naruto saw Gai give Ino a stern stare that promised a talking to later but then turned back to him.

"First of all Naruto I'm afraid that hoodies like that aren't aloud on the field. You'll have to take it off and put on a jersey." Gai said. At this Naruto became very nervous. The fact that everyone thought he was so big saved him from having too many people pushing him around, it increased the mental abuse but the physical abuse was greatly lessoned. So it was with great reluctance that he pulled the large, bulky hoodie over his head and put it down to the side. A large blush spread across his cheeks as he felt as if a layer had come off. He always wore a coat when he went out, no matter how hot it was. He felt overexposed and tried desperately to act nonchalant about the whole thing but what he really wanted was to rip the hoodie back over his head.

The reactions that came were immediate. Naruto watched in confusion as Gai first blanked out, a stunned look on his face, before it turned to deep concern. Sasuke frowned at him for some reason and Hinata… looked as if she'd just won a contest? The others all stared at him, their mouths agap and eyes wide. Naruto felt the heat on his cheeks literally explode with warmth; he rubbed the back of his neck in nervousness and attempted rather badly to divert the attention away from himself. "Well, lets get this game started, huh?" Kiba decided that it was the perfect time to come out of his daze. "What the fuck?"

The line held the most unfortunate of luck of bringing Gai back to reality as well. "Kiba! I do not want to hear such unyouthful words coming from your mouth again! Is that understood?" Gai asked sternly. Kiba meekly nodded his head. "Well, this is a surprise," Gai continued only the barest hint of a frown on his face, "I'm afraid the jersey I brought just in case will be quite big on you. I would have expected a seventh grader to be… um, larger. Please, if you can go catch up to Barda and get that jersey from him, admittedly it even looks a bit big for you though." Naruto nodded and left to catch up to the surprisingly fast runner known as Barda.

Gai looked after him, the frown returning in full swing. Gai was a trained fighter, he knew the body well and had easily seen the boy was smaller through the movements he made but that… He hadn't expected that. Now that the coat was off he could tell that the boy was severely underweight and it scared him. He knew his team couldn't see it, the shirt Naruto wore was big enough to hide it from most, but his eyes picked it up immediately. The way the shirt flowed inwards too much because there was nothing there and the fact that the boy wore a belt for pants that should have easily been held up on their own.

Gai glanced at his team. They all seemed to have their hopes raised a great deal by the new discovery, all of them revaluating the person they deemed too slow and clumsy to play. Sasuke and Shikamaru though, they both looked to have not liked something they'd seen. That was good. It was against Gai's code to speak of another student's problems to other students but if the students found out for themselves then that was another story. Gai felt confident that Sasuke and Shikamaru had the… subtleness that some of his other students lacked. He would have to edge them in the right direction though… If he could just give them a 'hint' toward just helping Naruto out it would do the small blonde a world of good, in his opinion any way. He'd have to find out about the boy's parents though, if Naruto's family was so poor that they could not give the boy enough food to get by then something needed to be done.


They were outside, lying on the grass and just staring up at the night sky. Naruto's guard stood stiffly a hundred feet behind them but the two learned a while ago how to just ignore him. The seven year old scooted closer and laid his head on her shoulder. She ruffled his hair and sighed in content. "Yugito," he whispered in her ear. She stifled a giggle from being tickled by his breath on her ear. "Hm?" She asked. "Why don't you run away?" Naruto asked quietly, afraid the man could hear his tiny voice from so far away. Yugito sat up and pulled the small child into her lap, giving his fragile body a large squeeze. "The Bujuu hold onto their own tighter than a snake to it's pray. You already know that Naruto." Yugito said softly. Naruto's bangs slipped in front of his eyes as his head leaned forward, a gesture that Yugito knew meant Naruto was deeply hurt. "Please don't lie. Why don't you run away Yugito?"

She knew what he meant. Naruto knew that she could get away from Kyuubi, at least if she chose to, knew that it was him that kept her near such a dangerous person. "Otouto, I felt dead before I met you," Yugito confessed. "I had no purpose for living. I grew up with my father Shinigame and my sister Nibi feeling like I was a failure because I didn't have their cold hearts and was completely useless to them. I eventually started to hate them. I hated what they did, what they stood for, everything. I couldn't take seeing so many people suffer because of my family. I started trying to find ways to help the people that my family hurt in their track for power and money, but all the good I did was so small compared to the horror they reeked on people and I was always afraid of being caught. Then… I heard about you. Father told me about a little brat and his family that he captured in their own home. How the little brat managed to grab his father's knife and slashed it across his throat. How much satisfaction he had when he killed the family one by one at one of the Bujuu's headquarters in Japan. The little brat though… Kyuubi got a hold of him, placed him in one of the prison cells." Yugito rapped her arms around the blonde, whose body shook uncontrollably.

"I wanted desperately to know who you were, to know about this little brat that my Father talked about with such hatred. I pulled every favor from every person who ever owed me just to see you. When I did, when I saw you on the prison floor, my heart almost broke. I've seen many prisoners in my time, a lot of horrible tortures that have made me vomit afterwards. Never to a child though, I couldn't take it. I grabbed you and left for our private hospital immediately. I wanted to protect you more than anything else in the world, I still do with all my heart, that's why I'm here. I'm here because I love you otouto." Naruto looked up at her, unsure how to respond or if he should just stay quiet. "Thank you," he finally said.

"You know Naruto, you may not know this but… I think you greatly affect Kyuubi. Whenever we see him, whenever you've ever talked to him, he seems less angry. I don't know how to explain it but I think you're a positive influence on him, somehow." Naruto didn't believe that for a second. Kyuubi was a monster in human skin. A demon that would sooner kill you than smile at you. Yugito's eyes glazed over a bit, a dreamy look overcoming her. "You know what we are Naruto? We are the living sacrifices, the ones that everyone left behind to suffer while they enjoy peace in death. We got the worst end of the deal. We're the ones that keep the Bujuu in check, yet no one knows it. You, I think your Kyuubi's conscious, the same as I am Nibi's. We keep them in check, just as Killer Bee keeps his brother Hachibi from going too far. We are the very essence of the word Jinchuuriki. One day though… One day one of us will be their end."


Naruto coughed harshly as he walked up with the smaller jersey on, a little disgruntled to note that while everyone else it went down to about their waste it went half way to his knees. Not fair, really! "All right!" Gai called out. "Naruto, I want you to cover Sasuke. If anyone manages to get the ball away from him I want you to be there to counter it. Shino, Kiba, Tenten! We don't know how good Naruto is so I want you three behind him if he slips up. Sakura, Ino I want you two to stay near the goal post to help Chouji if Sasuke doesn't get the ball or loses it. Neji, Lee! I want you two to try and stay ahead of Sasuke and the others. Get in the enemies way as much as possible!" Gai turned to Hinata. "I want you to stay between Kiba, Shino and Tenten and Ino and Sakura as a backup for who ever needs it."

"Right!" The team yelled out. Naruto looked a little confused. "What if Sasuke doesn't get the ball?" Naruto asked. Tenten clapped a hand on his shoulder and smiled. "Then it's a free for all." She whispered happily. "If one of Shikamaru's strategies fails while on the field then Shikamaru usually uses sign language to tell us a new strategy but seeing as he's on the bench today that means well be just trying our hardest to get the ball from the enemy team." She further explained. Naruto nodded.

As all members of both teams walked onto the field and Naruto found himself walking beside Sasuke of all people. "Why are you here Naruto?" Sasuke asked quietly. Normally Naruto would have replied with a sarcastic comment, but for once he decided that the truth might be the better way, just this once though. "I wanted to help you guys out," Naruto replied. "Then why didn't you join when we asked you?" Sasuke shot back. Here Naruto paused and worded his reply much more carefully. "I've got obligation's on Saturday. Sigui, my guardian, is gonna be pissed at me if he finds out I came and skipped out on them." Naruto looked away so that Sasuke couldn't see the fear in his eyes. Sasuke's frown deepened. "Then why didn't you just tell us that instead of being such an ass?" Sasuke demanded sternly, as if he were a parent reprimanding their child. Naruto sent a glare at him. "Because you never asked whether I was busy and jumped down my throat the moment I said no. You assumed I'm such a loser that I don't have a life of my own." Naruto hissed out.

That shut him up quickly, but then a confused look spread across his face. "Then why'd you come if you were busy?" Sasuke asked. Naruto looked back toward the others, specifically Hinata, Kiba and Shino, and further on off the field at Gai. "I didn't come to help you, I came to help some people who helped me." Naruto replied. A hurt look entered Sasuke's eyes but Naruto didn't notice it. "So you only came to pay back some people?" Sasuke asked. "Don't get your panties in a bunch, guilt was a huge part of it, but I also came because I really and honestly wanted to." Naruto turned to Sasuke with a shit-eating smile on his face. "Plus seeing the most popular people in school totally stressed out and biting everyone's heads off was extremely entertaining." Sasuke would have given an angry remark but they were in the middle of the field already with Grass in front of them. Naruto backed up a bit and the referee stepped forward. The game was about to begin.

Sasuke and the grass captain shook hands. The referee put metal in mouth. The whistle blew. Green and white flashed against blue and black. Sasuke kicked the ball behind him toward Naruto who dragged it between his legs with his right foot, the limb twitching slightly in pain, and kicked hard with his left as a tall grass player bumped harshly against his shoulder in an attempt to kick the ball from him. Naruto was forced to step back but it was already too late. Kiba, who he'd aimed the ball towards, was moving toward grass's goal with Sasuke to his left and Shino to his right, ball rolling in front of him. Naruto got into gear, feet thumping against the ground and heart pounding against ribs in exhilaration.

Several grass players moved in on the trio but Shino and Sasuke deftly moved in the way of the bigger players. Tenten pulled in front of Kiba and motioned for Kiba to kick the ball to her, Kiba nodded and kicked. Grass was immediately on her, too bad she didn't have the ball. Kiba faked and hit the soccer ball sideways to Sasuke who slammed it to the far right where Naruto was wide open with no grass anywhere in sight. The grass captain, furious about being fooled started yelling out commands as Naruto moved toward the goal. Naruto was now close enough to see the goalies face, a sneer across the large boy's lips and nose scrunched up in irritation. Two grass players closed in behind him so Naruto decided to take the shot before they could catch up to him. Naruto kicked the ball up into the air, startling his two stalkers, and turned with the kick, giving the round target a good spin. The goalie dived right for the ball but with the spin to it, the ball was sent left and hit the back of the net causing Community Academy to jump up in wild cheers. Naruto Uzumaki scored the first point of the game.

With a shit-eating grin Naruto turned toward the others, all of who returned his grin with one of their own. Except for Kiba. His mouth was a gap for several seconds before he furiously raised his arm and pointed at Naruto incredulously. "You're the one that Hinata got that trick from?" He yelled out in shock. Now this confused Naruto to no end. As far as he knew no one ever even saw him play, how in the world did Hinata see him play? When for that matter? The only place he played was in the ally beside the apartment building and he'd taken extra care to not let any one see him in fear that Sigui would find out and the sadistic son of a bitch would pop it or something.

Soccer was a HUGE game in Europe, though they called it football there, he'd picked it up in Germany and he and Yugito use to have a fun time, admittedly they both were horrible at it. While in Spain he'd actually learned a thing or too from other students at his elementary school during lunch since he'd never been considered an outcast there, though the other children did tend to stay away from him somewhat that was solely due to Nibi's influence instead of the rumors that spread at this school. So, to say the least, Naruto held not even the slightest inkling on how to respond to Kiba's outburst. Thus he did what he usually did when he didn't understand what the hell was going on. He grinned like an idiot, shrugged and walked passed. Kiba could interpret it as he will.

Sasuke smirked at the scowling grass captain, the older boy's anger rolling off him as lightning would from a thunderstorm. They were prepared this time, Naruto knew, grass wouldn't underestimate them again. This round would be far more difficult to win. The ball moved, but under Sasuke's or the grass captain Naruto wasn't sure. Suddenly Naruto got a clear view. The grass captain had it. Sasuke was on the guy's heels, but it was clear he wouldn't get it. Naruto sped up and just barely managed to block a grass player from separating the two captains. Neji came out of nowhere, blocking any advance the grass could make.

The grass captain was forced to shoot for one of his teammates to the far right, the player readily taking it under his feet and slamming it in the opposite direction. Naruto halted his step and turned around, eyes following the white and black ball. Ino, Sakura and Chouji were the only one's all the way down there. Naruto started to move but caught sight of Shikamaru waving his arms at him. Naruto peered at him curiously as the boy made halting motions with his hands. Shikamaru wanted him to stay down near the opposite goal? Naruto nodded and backed up a bit, eyes following the others process.

The grass member with the ball was encircled by his teammates in what Naruto would call a diamond formation. Hinata rushed in front of them while Shino came up behind them and slipped inside their guard through two inattentive players. Naruto tried to see what was happening after that but all he saw was a jumble of feet kicking and arms flailing about. Then the ball shot out at an awkward angle. Players of both teams shot in its direction. Sakura got to it at the same moment a grass player did, but instead of trying to take it she slammed it through the heavier set male's legs. The ball shot off toward Kiba who managed to get a hold of it, but he had two players breathing down his neck and he could do little when one of them managed to get it from the loose grip he had on it between his feet.

The grass player grunted in triumph as he moved the ball from left to right and gave it a large kick that sent it back toward Chouji's goal. Naruto cursed lightly under his breath as a grass player got a hold of the soccer ball and by passed Ino to shoot into the goal. Chouji dove for it, only barely managing to stop its entrance, but a grass player was ready by the goal and while Chouji clambered to his feet the grass player got it into the goal.


Forty-five long sweaty minutes later found the teams tied up six to six at half time. Naruto stared nervously at the clock that sat on the stadiums wall, a quarter to one-o-clock, Sigui would probably be up by about two-o-clock. Sasuke, who sat beside him, noticed the nervous look on his face. "So what's your guardian gonna do to you if he finds out you skipped out on him for whatever it is you needed to do?" Sasuke asked curiously. Naruto turned toward him, his face unintentionally going blank, the look scaring Sasuke a bit. "Don't worry about it," Naruto said softly, "I'll probably just be grounded for a while. No big deal." Sasuke frowned. "What could you have to do every Saturday that would make him ground you if you don't do it?" Sasuke asked in bewilderment.

Naruto blinked several times at him, the blank look clearing away and replaced by the clown Sasuke knew Naruto was in class. Naruto snorted and laughed at him in amusement. "I clean up his evil laboratory of blood stains and guts and then listen to his great endeavors in the underworld." Naruto said sarcastically and in his too loud voice, rapping his arms around himself in mock fear and giving a fake tremor. Sasuke shook his head at the blonde. "Idiot." Naruto just continued to smile hugely at him and jumped up when Gai called everyone to the field again. "Alright, we're tied up but I believe in all of you to do well, so go in there and do your best!"

Forty minutes later with only five minutes left in the game and the couches contemplating overtime the two teams were now tied at fifteen to fifteen. "This sucks," Kiba growled in irritation as sweat poured down his face. Despite the cold wind that blew across the field all members were dripping with perspiration in their effort to beat their equal match. "Your not kidding," Chouji said in despair. "Don't give up hope yet!" Lee yelled happily. "After all they are having just a hard a time beating us as we are them!" They had to admit that the bowl-cut was right.

"Naruto!" Shikamaru called from the bench. Naruto turned to the downed co-captain and bent down so that they were at eye level. "Yeah?" Naruto asked in surprise. "I've been watching you," Shikamaru said seriously. "Well that's kinda creepy," Naruto said just as seriously. Shikamaru gently knocked his fist against Naruto's forehead. "Not like that idiot. I mean I noticed something that could help us win us the game." Shikamaru explained. "Okay, that doesn't make it any less creepy though," Naruto said matter o factly. Shikamaru just sighed. "Look, I noticed that while you're not incredibly graceful you've got a powerful kick and your moves are incredibly erratic, so much that it's almost hypnotic. Their formations are what are killing us right now. More so than any one else on the team I think you'd be able to get into their formations without any of them even noticing. I also noticed that when they first form their patterns they leave the back open so it's easier for them to move until they reach the middle ground. So this is what I want you to do…"


Naruto whispered the plan into Sasuke's ear while they moved toward the center goal, Kiba and Shino, who were right behind them and could easily hear both were bug eyed (pun intended). "It's Shikamaru's plan," Naruto said defensively at the disbelief Sasuke wore on his face. They were at the middle now so Naruto straitened up and back up a few steps. "You're not winning this game. We'll be taking that nice, big shiny trophy home with us." The grass captain said mockingly as he stood in front of Sasuke. Naruto peeped his head around Sasuke and grinned. "Well if you do at least you'll have something that's big," Naruto said cheekily. Sasuke choked on a laugh as the grass captain grew red with anger or maybe it was embarrassment, probably a little of both. The referee certainly thought it was funny, seeing as the man appeared to be suffering from an asthma attack.

The whistle blew, a bit more spit logged this time, and the last five minutes of the game began. Sasuke got a hold of the ball and immediately hit as hard as he could toward grass's goal. The grass captain smirked at Community captain's stupidity. While getting the ball to the opposite goal was the objective of the game Sasuke practically gave grass the ball since it landed right in the midst of them. Six grass players moved toward the ball, one in the middle with the ball while the others surrounded her loosely in an arrow formation. She kicked the ball and they began to move. The victory was theirs. The other team had yet to break their formation once formed and with only five minutes left in the game they could easily score at least once.

The female grass player gave a startled gasp when out of nowhere a head of blonde hair was literally in her face. Something slammed against the ball that she'd been about to kick, instead her foot lashed out at flesh and she heard a yelp of intense pain. Her actually target flew out of the wide open back of the formation and strait toward the goal. At first shocked that the ball was heading in his direction the grass's goalie only just managed to raise his hands up and hit the ball outward… and right into the forehead of Uchiha Sasuke. Sasuke head butted the ball into the air and Shino, right behind his captain, gave the ball one final resounding kick into the goal. The sound of the roaring crowd drowned out the single scream Naruto made.


Naruto bit down hard on his lip to keep from screaming again, but it hurt like a bitch. The girl managed to kick his right leg right where the fracture had been. Was. Goddammit. It had healed wrong. Naruto knew this, but he'd been able to walk and run on it so he'd not bothered to worry about it. Naruto breathed in deeply for several times, attempting to push the pain wracking his leg to the side of his mind as he'd done so many other times when injured. Some of the grass players where looking at him with slight worry, the girl looked horrified. "I'm so, so, so sorry!" She said as she bent down. Naruto gritted his teeth and took a very deep breath.

"That's okay, it's not too bad, I'll be okay," Naruto said with a strained voice. Not surprisingly the girl didn't look convinced. "Here let me help you to your team," she insisted. Naruto shook his head, "That's okay, the games over, I'm just gonna head home." The girl nodded. "Where are your parents? I'll help you to them then." She said. "Um, actually I live really close so I walked, their not here," Naruto said with a forced smile. "I'll be fine, I promise." She bit her nail and her teammates all urged her to hurry up, their dejected faces miserable with failure. "Why aren't you getting up then?" She asked. Naruto grimaced and ever so slowly got up onto his knees and then ever so carefully stood up, all weight on his left leg. "See? I'll be fine." Naruto said cheerfully. "Thank you for your concern though." He added in a softer tone. She nodded and hesitantly backed up and went to join her team.

When she turned her back to him, Naruto's face fell and his entire being filled with panic, he was royally fucked. There was no way he'd be able to get back to the apartment like this, especially not before Sigui got up. "Naruto!" Sasuke walked up to him with the rest of the team trailing behind. Naruto forced a smile on his face and waved them over. "Hey Naruto," Sasuke said with a slight blush on his cheeks, "look, I just want to apologize for how we acted when we asked you to help us out and for the passed few weeks." Many of them nodded in agreement.

Kiba huffed and dramatically pointed toward Naruto in annoyance. "I still want to know how the hell it is that you're so small!" Kiba yelled in exasperation. Behind him, while none of them would admit it under torture, the rest of the team was leaning in to hear his answer. Naruto felt his eye twitch and he had a suspicion that his entire face would eventually develop a spasm. "I've always been 'small' as you put it. I just like to wear really big coats." Naruto said with a shrug. Chouji frowned at him. "Why would you want to look big?" The large preteen asked, his eyes subconsciously looking down at himself. Naruto winced as he accidentally put a little weight on his leg, something everyone saw and frowned at. "Less people fuck with someone they think is stronger or bigger than them," Naruto answered truthfully. At this everyone looked away guiltily. "Plus I just feel better wearing a coat," Naruto added to try and defuse the tense silence.

"We'll we wanted to thank you too," Chouji said sincerely after a minute, "for coming and all. You did great." Naruto gave them a real smile this time, though it was still greatly strained. "Thanks, it was no problem," Naruto said a little breathlessly. Shikamaru frowned. "Are you okay?" He asked. Naruto nodded. "Course," Naruto replied cheekily. Kiba gave a feral smile and walked up to Naruto excitedly. He slung his arm around Naruto's shoulder and Naruto just barely managed to bite back a scream as he was forced to hold some of the older boy's weight and lean on his right leg. "Hey, hey we're going to get some pizza to celebrate our win! Come with us, huh? After all you really helped us out there today." Kiba babbled happily.

Shikamaru watched Naruto's face twist in pain with alarm. "Kiba get off him!" Shikamaru snapped. Kiba let go and looked at Shikamaru like a kicked puppy. "What's your problem Shika?" Kiba asked. "Can't you see something's wrong?" Sasuke asked as he moved in front of Naruto. "I'm… fine. I'm fine." Naruto gritted out. Tenten leaned over Sasuke's shoulder and peered at him carefully. "That's definitely not fine," she commented. They were too close, closing in on him. Naruto tried to back up but pain shot through his right leg and he stumbled back and onto the ground, hissing in pain when the said appendix jarred against the ground. "Naruto why didn't you say anything before?" Kiba demanded in concern.

Shikamaru, Sasuke and the rest all crowded around him, they blocked out the sun, shadowing his body. Naruto gripped his leg tightly trying to control the wave of pain that shot through him and his rising panic. "I… I said… said I'm fine! Just go to your little pizza thing or what ever the hell it is!" Naruto yelled at them. They didn't go away though, they stared down at him in deep concern, closing in closer till he couldn't see anything but their faces. The faces started to swirl into a dark abyss.

"Naruto you should be taken to a Doctor if your legs hurt."

"Hey man, you don't look so good."

"What should we do?"

"Do you think he broke it?"

"Kiba your such an idiot!"

"Can you stand?"

"Naruto, what's wrong?"

"We should pull up that pant leg to see how bad it is."

"He looks like he's having a hard time breathing!"

"Get back!"

At the sound of Gai's voice everyone backed up from Naruto who's hands were over his ears and eyes tightly shut. When Gai leaned in close he could tell that the small blonde's breathing was labored and hitched. "Naruto, it's just me, Gai. Are you okay?" Gai asked gently. Gai's frown deepened when Naruto ignored him. Gai made to pick him up to take him to the benches when Naruto's eyes opened and he glared at him. "Don't touch me!" Naruto snapped. Taken aback Gai took a closer look, trying to gage what caused this reaction. The blonde was shaking and seemed terrified of something. "I said that… I'm… perfectly fine! So just go!" Naruto said through clinched teeth. That's when Gai noticed it, one of Naruto's hands was clenched around the middle of his right leg, the leg itself spread out in front of him.

"Naruto, let me see your leg." Gai said gently but sternly. Naruto sent him an icy glare but Gai ignored it with the ease that came with teaching for years, he'd secretly rate Naruto's as one of the top one's he'd seen since he'd been in collage. Naruto took a deep breath and stumbled uncertainly to his feet, trying unsuccessfully to put weight on his leg. "See, just fine." Naruto muttered, his eyes downcast. "Naruto where are your parents?" Gai asked sternly. Sasuke, close enough to hear the conversation, winced. "At work, I walked here." Sasuke looked up at Naruto's answer and frowned. Was Naruto uncomfortable with the fact that he was an orphan or had Naruto lied to him about being one? Or did he consider his guardian his parent?

"Sasuke, what's holding you up?" A voice called. Itachi. The tall young man walked up to him and his teammates. He'd been so distracted that he'd completely forgotten that his older brother promised to be at his game by half time. His mother had been forced to miss the game after she dropped him off because their father called her to his office an hour away for some meeting with a higher up. Their parents would be going to some big dinner at some fancy restaurant tonight with the higher ups and their father expected Mikoto to be there, no excuses and absolutely no tardiness. "It's Naruto. He hurt his leg somehow, but for some reason he's refusing any help." Sasuke answered in a slightly aggravated tone. Itachi cocked an eyebrow. "Naruto? The boy you've been pissed at the last few weeks. I though he wasn't coming to the game." Itachi said.

"I'm gonna need to talk to your parents Naruto. I need to tell them what happened." Sasuke heard Gai say. Sasuke looked toward Naruto. The blonde was refusing to look at Gai and shaking his head. "They won't be back for a while. Really it's fine. I just hit it, nothing but a bruise." Naruto insisted in a strained voice. Sasuke decided that Naruto REALLY didn't want his guardian finding out he'd come. "I've got obligation's on Saturday. Sigui, my guardian, is gonna be pissed at me if he finds out I came and skipped out on them." Sasuke bit his lip, it was their fault that Naruto came and the blonde would definitely be grounded if what Naruto said held any truth.

"Hey Itachi?" Sasuke asked, eyes still on Naruto. "Yes?" Itachi asked, the young man's eyes watching the scene with curiosity. "Do you mind if we drop Naruto off at his place? He walked here and hurt his leg so he's got no way to get home." Sasuke said. Itachi turned to his little brother and tilted his head in confusion. "Not even this morning you were raving about how angry you were at this Naruto and now you want to give him a ride home?" Itachi questioned. Sasuke nodded, a guilty expression on his face. "He saved our butts out there today. It's the least we can do. Besides his guardian's super strict from what I hear, if he doesn't get home soon he'll probably be grounded and with that leg it would take him all day to get back." Sasuke said looking away. "I see." Itachi said quietly. "Then it would be best if we hurried."

"Do your parents know you're here Naruto?" Gai finally asked. Naruto bit his lip. Sigui would be up any minute now, his leg was shot for walking and the pain was agony, Gai was asking questions that he couldn't answer and people were getting suspicious. He needed to get out of here now. Everyone on the team was staring at him, whispering to each other and probably wondering what the hell was wrong with him. Why did he come? This was such a horrible idea. "Naruto! Need a ride home?" Sasuke called out. Naruto just stared at him for several seconds, his mind trying to process what had been asked of him. Not an accusation or inquirery, simply an offer. While he was suspicious he was also desperate. He forced a grin on his face as he turned to look at Sasuke. "That would be great!" Naruto said quickly, cutting Gai off from protesting.

Sasuke nodded, but Gai frowned in disapproval. "Naruto needs to have his leg looked at and his parents need to be informed." Gai said sternly. "I just bruised it badly," Naruto said tiredly, "It's really no big deal." Itachi walked up to Naruto and turned around, the action confused Naurto greatly until the young man bent down and gestured for Naruto to get on his back. Naruto didn't move. Itachi looked over his shoulder at the small blonde and gave a sigh. "Even if your leg is just 'bruised' as you put it, you still need to stay off of it for the rest of the day at least and get ice on it as soon as possible." Naruto hesitated for a moment more, but then wearily gave into logic and nodded. Naruto rapped his arms around Itachi's neck, feeling vulnerable as he was lifted off the ground, which caused him to flinch. He didn't mean to, it was a natural reaction, any time he'd ever been picked up it had been during a beating. Yugito was the only exception and she was long dead. He didn't remember when Sato or Haru picked him up because he'd been in a feverous state during both instances. Itachi bent his knees to take the extra weight, but nearly had a heart attack when he stood up and felt nearly nothing on his back. The small child couldn't have weighed seventy pounds.

Itachi quietly noted the flinch, but otherwise gave no sign that he'd seen it. "Mr. Gai?" Itachi asked, turning to the worried couch. "Yes?" The man asked. "Can you please direct me to an area that serves ice near by?" Itachi asked. Gai nodded and pointed to a booth that was about to close up and go home. Itachi nodded his thanks. "Hey, Sasuke!" Kiba called. "Why don't you guys come eat with us and then take Naruto home, huh?" Naruto's grip on Itachi's shoulder tightened slightly in fear, the action not going without his notice. "I'm sure his parents will be worried, "Itachi said coolly, "We'll take him home first and then head over for pizza." The hand relaxed immediately. Itachi did not like the signs this kid was showing, not at all. He was an investigative police officer. He was the man you called when you needed a job that required a great deal of observation without showing that he'd seen it, the specialist in undercover work.

"Itachi-san?" Naruto asked in a strained voice. "Yes?" Itachi replied, if he wondered about the strange title the boy gave him the young man showed no indication. "My jacket, I left it at the benches, could we go get it?" Itachi nodded. "We can get it while Sasuke gets the ice." Itachi said while Sasuke gave a huff of indignation of being ordered around. "I don't have the money to buy any ice," Naruto said slowly as they headed toward the booth. "Don't worry about it, its ice, not like it's a four course meal at some five star restaurant," Sasuke said with hands in pocket. Naruto stayed quiet, trying not to move a muscle so as to not irritate either Itachi or his aching leg. As it turns out Sasuke was the last customer to be excepted before the owner completely closed down. Hands loaded with a bag of ice he hurried to the car were Itachi was waiting and gave an indignant grunt when he saw the arrangement. Naruto was upfront with his orange hoodie already over his head, which means he was expected to sit in the back, it made sense, since Naruto knew the directions but it was still embarrassing. Sasuke looked at Naruto as the blonde coughed into his hands, it sounded like a dry cough, something that would probably give the blonde a soar throat later on.

Sasuke ducked into the car through his brother's side and handed the ice to Naruto who took it gratefully and gingerly held it on his leg. An audible sigh of relief left the blondes lips that caused Sasuke to frown as Itachi got into the car. "If it hurt that bad then why didn't you just tell everyone you hurt it. Your guardian can't be that much of an ass that he would be mad at you that he would ground you after you got hurt would he?" Naruto grinned back at him, the clown once more at the forefront and the serious Naruto shoved aside. "Don't mind me, I'm just a big baby when it comes to pain." Naruto stated with a wink, "I'll be just fine." Itachi looked throw the rear mirror as he backed up out of the driveway. "Guardian? I thought Mr. Gai said you had parents." Itachi asked innocently. Naruto grew quiet so Sasuke decided to answer. "He's an orphan who's going to school on some kind of companies charity. That's what you told me at the car wash right? And your guardians name is… Sigui?" Sasuke asked.

Naruto nodded, a big grin on his face. "Yeah, I live with my guardian downtown in an apartment building called Recruit, a few blocks from the homeless shelter." Naruto answered. Sasuke found himself frowning once again. Downtown at the Recruit apartment? That sounded familiar. Where in the worl… Halloween, the last apartment they'd been too. Naruto lived there. It was a dump. Technically speaking he'd been disobeying his parents by going that far from the house, but he'd been in a large group and since some of his friends regularly went downtown for the self-defense class and were familiar with the area he'd not been nervous. He wouldn't want to walk that area alone though, it was a street known for its gangs and such.

Sasuke watched Itachi scrutinize the grimy streets as he pulled in front of the building and into a parking lot. Naruto hurriedly opened the door and swung out, careful to pull his leg out gently. He turned back to both he and his brother and gave them the largest grin Sasuke had ever seen. "Thanks for driving me here, I really appreciate it!" Naruto yelled. Was it just him or was Naruto getting louder by the minute? Itachi stepped out of the car and Sasuke followed right after him. Itachi put his arms on top of the car and peered at Naruto in amusement. "And I suppose that a fairy will float down and carry you up the stairs?" Itachi asked. Sasuke snickered but it stopped when Naurto went pale and his cheeks took on a flushed color. Still he kept smiling. That smile was really starting to scare him a bit. "That's not necessary I'll manage by myself." Naruto nearly shouted, but Sasuke noticed something that chilled him, the blonde's eyes shown only emptiness.

Sasuke never realized it before, but now it seemed incredibly obvious how nervous Naruto always seemed to be in class, how similar it was to now. This Sigui guy couldn't possibly be that bad that Naruto didn't even want them to meet him. Memories suddenly slammed against him like a torrent of burning water: 'A little bruise that started at the wrist widened considerably and covered the length of a rather large hand. It just looked too much like a hand for him to think of it as anything else. As if someone had grabbed him there with great force.' 'A large yellowish black bruise covered almost all of Naruto's left cheek, so much that even the scars there couldn't be seen much. His lip looked split right down the middle, a large scab to show the body's attempt at healing it. A gleam of sweat covered Naruto's entire face and he only now noticed the breaths that came out far too deep. His eyes showed a dull blue that threatened to consume him with their pure emptiness.' Sasuke suddenly felt like ice cold water dosed him and he was brought back to reality. He stared at Naruto in horror. What if Naruto never got into a fight after he left? What if he got hurt when he got home? "I've got obligation's on Saturday. Sigui, my guardian, is gonna be pissed at me if he finds out I came and skipped out on them."

Itachi walked around the car while Sasuke continued to stare in shock at Naruto. Itachi held a long staring contest with the short blonde before he stubbornly turned his head away. "Look, Sigui really hates guests, he's not a people person. Just… I can get up there myself." Sasuke wearily eyed his brother. Itachi rarely was this patient with any of his friends, if he wanted them to leave they left, if he wanted them quiet they became quiet, if he disliked any of the people Sasuke hung out with Sasuke never saw them again. That was the type of force his brother carried around with him yet with Naruto he was being patient and careful. It scared the shit out of him almost as much as what he suspected Naruto's home life was like.

"Naruto, I'll just take you up to your apartment door, you can go in by yourself if that's really what you want." Sasuke stared at his brother incredulously. Sasuke knew that Itachi suspected something was wrong so why in the world wouldn't he want to go up and check it out? Itachi pulled out a piece of paper and whispered something to Naruto that Sasuke couldn't hear to which Naruto slowly nodded and stuck in his pocket. Okay, THAT was going to drive him up the wall with curiosity. And both of the cryptic basterds be damned, he knew neither of them would tell him. So with that Naruto unwillingly got back on Itachi's back with Sasuke trudging behind them all the way to the third floor.


Naruto found himself in the worst situation he could have ever… yeah right. He hadn't even imagined it could be this screwed up. Once more God proved his infinite power through the sure number of ways one could mess with his life. Why did he have to continuously run into people who were unbelievably determined to get them-selves killed? Why couldn't he be surrounded by people who didn't give a shit and were willing to believe the 'I fell down the stairs' story over and over again? But noooooooooooo he got stuck with fucking Christ figures that wanted nothing more than to help him. First they make his day-to-day life a living hell and now everyone and their brother, quite literally as the situation would have it, wanted to help him. He would be perfectly happy with indifference. No being shoved against lockers all the time and no putting noses where they didn't belong would make his life at least bearable. He felt a headache coming on fast.

His entire body shook with stress and fear as they walked up. What if one of Sigui's cronies saw him being carried up the stairs and decided to tell Sigui about it? Despite the fact that he was an alcoholic Sigui took being his warden very seriously. Why wouldn't he? After all if something happened to him then Kyuubi would kill Sigui without a second thought. Naruto's eyes moved around the hall and stairway with great care, reassuring him-self every five seconds that the cronies were no-where in sight. This in itself set him on edge though. It was the middle of the afternoon, there should be at least half a dozen of them moving in and out of the apartment building.

They were on the third floor already. Naruto froze in full out panic at the sight before him. Sigui sat outside the door on a chair with his arms folded and an extremely calm aura with eyes closed. At the sound of the footsteps the big man unfolded his arms and turned slowly towards them. The man's gaze fell immediately on him, pressing him into a corner with his single stare. Itachi continued to move forward and Naruto wanted nothing more than to burst out screaming for the man to turn around and run. He didn't though. He stayed quiet because his silence kept Itachi and Sasuke safe. As long as he said nothing there would be no consequences for the two brothers.

Sigui stood up and smiled down at Itachi, for Sigui stood at least a foot taller than the short young man. "Well, well it seems Naruto just can't stay out of trouble. Can I ask what he managed to do this time?" Sigui asked politely. The good guardian act, Sigui could act almost as well as Naruto himself could, that was saying a great deal considering that not even Kyuubi himself could put on a face like Naruto. "Naruto didn't do anything wrong Mr. Sigui. He greatly helped my brother's soccer team to win today at the school." Itachi said calmly. Sigui's eyes flashed. Naruto flinched. Sasuke winced. Itachi unconsciously tightened his grip on Naruto's legs, taking in the older man's reaction with a calm that came from years of practice.

"Is that so? I didn't know Naruto liked soccer. I wish he would have told me, if so I would have driven him there myself. He's always doing this to me, scaring me out of my wits by disappearing without any regards to my feelings." Sigui said sadly. Itachi nodded. "Perhaps it would have been better if he'd told you where he was going, but he did come to the game with good intentions, I wouldn't be too hard on him." Itachi said carefully. Sigui gave what Naruto suppose he believed to be a warm smile but that came off more as a grown man knowing a dirty secret he wanted to share with his drinking buddy. "I would never dream of giving the boy any punishment for such a small thing as this. Naruto has always loved helping others, it's why he hangs out at the homeless shelter so much. He's just a bit forgetful is all." Sigui said quietly.

It was completely unintentional and Naruto didn't even realize he did it but at those words his panic attack took physical form when the blonde dug his nails into Itachi's shoulders tightly enough that Itachi had a difficult time hiding the act from the older man's watchful eyes. Itachi shifted slightly to the side so that Sigui couldn't see the small blondes fingers and gently squeezed Naruto's thigh to try to get the boy to calm done. Naruto blinked a few times in confusion before realizing his mistake and his cheeks growing a crimson red in embarrassment. "You can put me down now Itachi-san." Naruto said softly but not so softly that Sigui didn't hear. "Why are you carrying him around any ways? He's certainly capable of walking on his own." Sigui said the underlining insult only perceived by Naruto.

"Naruto badly hurt his leg during the game. He should be taken to a doctor as soon as possible. I would have taken him myself but Naruto was adamant about not going." Itachi said as he carefully set Naruto down. Naruto felt Sigui's eyes bearing down on him, but purposefully kept his eyes to the ground to avoid the anger the man kept calmly secured behind his visage. Sasuke walked around Itachi till he stood side by side with Naruto, watching out of the corner of his eye the subtle shaking that the smaller boy exhibited. Naruto's eyes, almost hidden from Sasuke's view behind bangs, had become voids to the point the irises looked nearly black instead of icy blue. "I'll do that," Sigui said quietly. Sasuke couldn't understand why Itachi was letting this man go, letting Naruto go without a fight. Sasuke moved to pull Naruto back but was stopped by Itachi's iron grip on his shoulder.

Sigui stepped towards Naruto who finally lifted his head up and looked strait at the man in front of him. Sasuke felt numb inside. The void had swallowed Naruto whole, there was nothing left of his friend. And there it was. Sasuke finally admitted that the idiot classmate, the calm and cold volunteer partner, the sarcastic yet blunt persona that continuously caused him to question himself was truly his friend. It had taken him nearly four months of being paired with the blonde and Sakura to admit it, four months to see, no, admit that something horribly wrong was going on with the blonde, four months of hints and bruises and absences and unexplained sickness to come to the conclusion that the idiot classmate didn't exist at all.

Naruto Uzumaki talked a lot, but never about himself. Naruto Uzumaki was incredibly blunt, but rarely told the truth. Naruto Uzumaki boasted with the best and spoke loudly, but held little faith in him-self. No one at school ever talked to him, they only argued with him, and that was the mistake Sasuke made as well. Naruto Uzumaki didn't have a single soul to talk to, he was completely and utterly alone in the world, surrounded by a sea of people that considered him nothing but a nuisance. Naruto Uzumaki argued about meaningless things all the time, but when you simply talked to him it seemed that you suddenly discovered a new and wonderful book, only it had been on the shelf the whole time. His classmate, his teammate, his friend disappeared in the blink of an eye to be replaced by this void of a person, a person who'd resigned themselves to what may happen. Sasuke felt incredibly numb.

Not unlike a monster rising up from the sea did Sigui swoop in and roughly pulled the blond to him, hazardly hooking his arm under Naruto's own for some sort of support to walk. The man paid no attention to the fact that the blonde's leg was badly hurt nor to the intense pain that suddenly filled Naruto's face when his leg was jarred. He simply nodded to Itachi who continued to watch with what appeared to be indifference on his face, hand still restraining Sasuke from moving. When the door closed behind the two Sasuke angrily turned on his brother. "How could you let that man take him?" Sasuke hissed. Itachi simply covered Sasuke's mouth and shook his head. "Not here Sasuke, walls have ears," Itachi whispered. With that the older brother turned and left while the younger stomped after him, eyes worriedly eyeing the door.


When they entered their home, both decided that they didn't feel like pizza at the moment, Sasuke turned to Itachi with a vicious glare. "Why the hell did we leave him there?" Sasuke snarled. Itachi calmly walked into the kitchen and poured some water into a kettle to boil on the stove. "What did you see Sasuke?" Itachi asked softly. Sasuke folded his arms in annoyance. "Naruto was freaking out when we left him there! And that guy, Sigui, he was obviously really angry with Naruto." Itachi nodded. "So you wanted me to arrest a man for being angry with his charge when that charge disobeyed him to go to a soccer game. Of which the charge never even mentioned the game to the guardian?" Itachi asked raising an eyebrow. Sasuke glowered. "Its obvious that he's been hurting Naruto for months!" Sasuke snarled. Itachi stared at Sasuke. "And why haven't you mentioned this before? What proof do you have?" Itachi questioned sternly.

"He came to school once with his face all bruised that he said he got from getting in a fight and I saw some bruises on his arm this one time and he came to school really sick another time but now I think this Sigui guy had something to do with it, all of it. Naruto's always absent without explanation as well." Sasuke ticked off. Itachi shook his head in irritation. "All of which can be easily countered in a court. He could very well have gotten into a fight. You have no pictures to prove theses bruises ever existed. He could have simply been sick. And from what you tell me everyone believes him to be a rebellious troublemaker so why or how on earth could that possibly lead to Sigui instead of Naruto merely being a troublemaker? While it was readily obvious to me that the man, Sigui, shows great signs of having a violent nature he in no way exhibited that in a way that could be proved in court. If written down the conversation could be taken as extremely polite. He said nothing or did anything that could be proved as abusive." Itachi said. "What about how Sigui pulled Naruto inside like that? Sigui obviously hurt Naruto badly by how he grabbed him!" Sasuke shouted at which Itachi shook his head once more.

"At that Naruto was his own downfall. I repeatedly tried to get Naruto to admit his leg was injured but he continuously denied it. Thus Sigui could not be blamed for jarring his leg if Naruto himself denied the injury." Itachi explained in an irritated voice. "But what if Sigui hurt him after we left or is?" Sasuke demanded, exenterated by his fist slamming on the counter top. "What would you have me do? Kidnap a child from the rightful parental figure because of a hunch? I'd be hunted down and arrested immediately." Itachi said calmly. "Then we do nothing?" Sasuke asked in numbness. Itachi smiled weakly. "I would never abandon a child to be abused by someone Sasuke. You were simply too busy having a hissy fit in the car to notice that I called some friends from the office to do me a favor."

Sasuke's head shot up at the answer. "So what are they going to do?" Sasuke asked quietly. Itachi pulled out two mugs and put two bags of tea in them. "Why is it that your friend added 'san' to my name Sasuke?" Sasuke stared at his older brother confused for several long minutes before reluctantly shrugging his shoulders. "It is an honorific form of address in China and Japan. Naruto speaks fluent English so I never would have guessed he came from Asia." Itachi said quietly. Now Sasuke was extremely confused, Naruto came from China or Japan? Why did it matter? "It makes me wonder," Itachi said quietly, "why a man who obviously has no need or want for a child would be a guardian to an orphan in the first place. More curiously why one from another continent?" Itachi said quietly to the point that Sasuke wondered if Itachi was even talking to him.

"So what will they do?" Sasuke repeated. Itachi smiled and motioned with his fingers for Sasuke to come closer. Sasuke leaned in and with two fingers Itachi gently tapped the boy on his forehead. "Maybe I'll tell you when you're older." Itachi said with a small smile.

"Damn you."

"Language Sasuke."


Naruto bit back a scream as he was slammed against the wall, his leg bouncing mercilessly against the white painted plaster. "Not only did you disobey me you little worthless basterd but you brought police to my door?" Sigui seethed. 'Police?' Naruto thought dully. The hand tightened further around his neck causing even that small confusion to disappear in a sea of darkness. Suddenly the hand of death released itself and he fell to the floor in a heap, coughing and sputtering harshly for breath. Sigui moved away from him, pacing back and forth along the carpeted floor, angrily throwing back glares at the small blonde who continued to cough.

As the man continued to pace Naruto slowly got his feet underneath him again and stood up, eyes wearily watching the man for any sign of what he planned to do. "No doubt that fucktard of a cop will have me watched." Sigui seethed out as he finally stopped pacing and turned to Naruto. "That means we'll have to get the fuck out and in a hotel for a couple weeks at the very least. You'll be gone by the end of the week so at least there's one blessing." Sigui said with a sneer. Naruto glared back at the man to little effect. "Pack your bags, it will be the one you've got when you leave with Killer Bee." Sigui said.

Using the wall as support Naruto made it to his room and with painstaking slowness packed a bag but hesitated when his hand touched his sketch notebook. If he brought it with and Kyuubi or someone else went through it he'd be in deep shit, but if he left it and Sigui found it then that would be bad too, not nearly as bad but still bad. Eventually Naruto decided to take it with him, better under his eyes than anywhere else. That's when he decided to take Itachi's note out of his pocket. It startled him to hear the Japanese words flow from the older man's lips with little to no American accent at all. On the paper were instructions on how to create a makeshift cast from your home, he'd been wondering what Itachi was writing while Sasuke was getting the ice and been thankful when Itachi told him what it was. Naruto just barely managed to get those supplies into his travel pack and into the hallway before Sigui came crashing out of his room with his own brand new burlap sack behind him. The man gave a disgusted sneer in Naruto's direction before entering the kitchen.

Naruto leaned heavily against the wall, willing the pain that attacked his leg to go away. It was as he was lying against the wall that he felt a deep itch that turned into an ache in his chest. Naruto bent down to cough into his hands, quickly becoming irritated that he was coughing so much. Was he catching something? A sudden knocking on the door caused him to pause and look up. "What are you waiting for? Get the goddamn door you useless fuck." Sigui growled from the kitchen. Naruto decided that it was not his day to press his luck so ignored the man as he limped awkwardly toward the door. Peering through the peephole he recognized two of Sigui's cronies outside it, waiting impatiently. Naruto opened the door and as quickly as his leg would allow moved out of their way. A towering dark-skinned man stood with eyes so narrowed you had to wonder if they were closed stood there in an overly large trench coat, beside him a rather large but short pale man with eyes too far apart to be natural and clothes a size to small to be comfortable. "Marco… Fatso, how you doing? Haven't seen you two in quite a while." Naruto said casually, attempting to keep as strait as possible so that they wouldn't notice his leg.

The pale man glared fiercely at the blonde with hatred in his eyes. "A fucking hour we've been trailing these god forsaken streets for your ass," the man hissed dangerously as he leaned into Naruto's face, so that the blonde was forced to lean back until his head tapped the wall. The pale man fisted the front of Naruto's shirt, slamming him into the wall and pushing him up till his feet dangled. "I've had just about enough of your damn mouth and I'm fixen ta gag you hard enough to choke you," the pale man whispered. "Before you do that can you give a dying man one last wish by eating a shit load a mint? Cause you know I'd rather not have my last moments filled with your face AND the smell of your breath." Naruto replied back as calmly as possible.

A fist slammed into his stomach, he wretched across the tile floor, a mixture of stomach acid and water. As he stared down at the strange liquid spewed across the recently cleaned floor two things that had nothing to do with the fist keeping him pinned to the wall hit his mind. The first thing he thought was that Sigui would be angry that the floor got dirty, which was a ridiculous idea for the circumstances. The second was more of a realization that he was incredibly hungry and a reminder that he'd not eaten since yesterday afternoon. Marco ripped the pale man off the small blonde, glaring at the shorter man with extreme irritation. "Get a hold of yourself Kenny! You always have to act like a fricken two year old?" Marco demanded. As the weight holding him up disappeared Naruto slipped to his knees, clenching his fists in pain as his leg rammed against the floor.

As Sigui walked into the room Naruto took one of his sleeves and wiped off the vomit that still sat on his lips and chin. Without looking at any one Sigui tossed an extremely heavy black coat over to Naruto who only just caught it before it fell into the mess on the floor. "Take that shitty jacket off and put that on. It will be easier to move you if your not wearing a fucking orange blimp to warn every cop around. And make sure to pull the hood over that ugly scarred face of yours." Sigui said to which Kenny snickered. Naruto tore off his orange hoodie hurriedly and slipped the much too big jacket over his shoulders. "Marco, carry the little basterd to the car and take him to the place. Kenny… clean this shit up." Sigui commanded. "ME?" Kenny sputtered, "Why not make the little dipshit clean it up? He's the one that did it!"

Sigui sent an icy glare at the man. "Because, one, his fucking leg's fucked up and I don't have time to wait for some cop to nock at my door and, two, because I fucking told you to." Sigui snarled as he walked out the door. Well, so much for keeping his leg a secret, Kenny would definitely take advantage of that if they met later. Marco smirked at Kenny as the man scowled but like the obedient servant he was went to clean up the mess. Marco slung Naruto's bag over one shoulder and then heaved Naruto over the other. "I'm not a fucking bag you know," Naruto said halfheartedly, to this the tall black man merely let out a bellow of a laugh. "Might as well be," Marco pointed out. Naruto would admit that he couldn't argue with that.


When Marco came out of tall Maria Hotel with a half dozen sets of keys he was hardly surprised. Any time he was brought to a hotel, whether by one of the Bujuu or one of their underlings, it was always the same thing. The top floor with every room rented out for privacy. Naruto covered his mouth with his arm when he felt another cough coming on, his throat really starting to hurt him. Marco picked up Naruto's bag, but this time merely let Naruto grab a hold of his arm to limp through the hotel, no need to alert any one with suspicious behavior. Naruto's grip tightened as they reached the elevator, already aware that Marco wouldn't allow them to go up the stairs. Naruto's breath hitched as Marco forcefully pushed him into the elevator, the man very much aware that the blonde wouldn't go on his own.

As the doors closed shut Naruto shut his own eyes and took deep even breaths to keep the panic at bay. He suddenly felt extremely cold, cold as if he was underground in a prison room that never received heating, cold so chilling it caused your skin to turn a slight shade of blue. Naruto started to hum along with the elevator music, trying desperately not to focus on the irritating tune. It wasn't working very well because the walls felt as it they were suffocating him, it was becoming more and more difficult to breath, why weren't they there yet?

Naruto felt someone tug him along and suddenly he was limping forward painfully. Naruto opened his eyes to see they were no longer in the elevator. Marco stared down at him in annoyance and it was only then that he noticed his nails were clenched into the big man's arm hard enough for bloody crescents to form and his own knuckles to show white. Naruto, with a good deal of difficulty, unclenched his fingers from the man's skin. Marco grunted and continued to tug him along till they arrived at the door that appeared to be squarely in the middle of the building. It was a rather large ten story building with six rooms on each floor so Naruto doubted that even those who were below would be able to here any thing, obviously Sigui picked this building for just an occasion as this.

Naruto would admit that it slightly irritated him how smart the dumb drunk addict could be at time, of course if that wasn't the case Naruto would never have become his prisoner in the first place. Kyuubi wasn't about to let him go in any sense of the word, though he still didn't understand why Kyuubi just didn't kill him. He guessed that there had to be so reason that Kyuubi still needed him alive, but what the reason was, he couldn't even begin to fathom. The Kyuubi, the last time he saw the man last year, admitted that he would never be able to get the information from him.

When they got inside Marco opened up the closet and dumped Naruto's bag inside, leaving the door wide open. Naruto sighed and limped to the bed, falling onto it with a thump and nearly falling asleep then and there, except there was a problem. Marco was leaning against the closed door of the room staring at him. Naruto's body tensed and he gingerly pushed himself up, eyes watching the man wearily. "You know, Sigui had every one of us out there looking for you, even got Mizuki with that little tracker thing out. When Mizuki called and said you were at the field outside the school, Sigui almost broke his cell phone he was so angry, its got a least a few cracks in it now." Naruto got off the bed, crouching down behind it so that Marco couldn't see what he was doing with his hands, and quickly pulled out his knife he'd strapped to the inside of his left calf. Naruto quickly slipped it up his right sleeve and stood up, Marco never once taking his eyes off of him, an eyebrow raised at the strange action.

"Sigui wanted me to thank you for all the trouble you've caused for him. Don't worry, nothing physical, after all we've got the famous Uchiha cops after our asses. Wouldn't want them to see anything now would we?" Marco said as he moved forward. 'The Uchiha's are cops?' Naruto thought surprised, but quickly pushed it to the side to think about later. Naruto backed up further into the rather large room, a suite definitely, Sigui would have no less. The sleeves on the black jacket went far past his fingertips, clearly designed for an adult. But it was perfect for Naruto. The blade sat atop his fingertips, hidden from Marco's eyes as the tall man moved forward, ready to be lashed out at any second.

"You know, I feel bad for you kid, I really do. I personally like you. You've got guts and street smarts, far more than any other kid I've met your age. Orders are orders though and we both know that Sigui's not a man to fuck with right? So no hard feelings?" Marco asked as he continued to move forward. Naruto stumbled a bit as his right leg nearly gave out on him, a sharp intense pain searing through his body. Without his consent a strangled scream escaped his lips that caused Marco to smile, this would be easy with the boy's leg like that. Naruto stopped walking and coldly looked into Marco's eyes, an icy blue that caused even the large man before him to slow a bit in his approach, there was a reason that Naruto survived Kyuubi after all. "Yeah, I understand, no hard feelings," Naruto said just loud enough for Marco to hear. The grin on Marco's face grew as he closed the rest of the distance between them. That's when Naruto struck.


At five-o-clock, if Fugaku was home for dinner, they would eat together in the dining room. Tonight the head of the house was indeed home so when Itachi's cell phone rang the man gave him an aggravated glare. Fugaku would insist that all cell phones be away from the table while they ate for manners, but Itachi knew it was so that no one could have an excuse to escape his torturous tales he told about the office and what not. The man also enjoyed how his family squirmed under his view; savoring the dominance he felt when they avoided eye contact, with him it was all about power. Itachi moved away from the table, indifferent to his father's impervious stare. "I'm afraid that its from work, I can't avoid it," Itachi said calmly. His father's lips twisted in annoyance, but the man nodded in acceptance and continued to torture Itachi's mother and little brother.

Itachi asked his mother once why she'd married their father and Mokoto replied, quite dryly, that she'd wanted to get away from her parents roof more than she disliked the man. Itachi remembered that moment quite fondly, his mother was the only person who could catch him off guard, and the answer she gave nearly caused him to drop the cup of tea he'd been sipping at from his hands.

Itachi flipped the phone open. "Itachi?" A deep voice on the other end asked. "Yes, I'm here," Itachi answered in low tones. He did not want his father to know that he was using men from Fugaku's office to check up on some kid. The man would go ballistic. Of course Fugaku would be even more horrified to find out that Itachi used these same men to keep an eye on his father. Itachi would never tell his mother or Sasuke, but he suspected the man to be delving into to illegal acts and already found incriminating evidence on him. "The man you asked us to trail, this Sigui? His car is gone and there doesn't appear to be any one in the apartment. We'll wait for the man to come back and I'll call you then, okay?" Itachi nodded and then realized his error, the person on the other line could not see him nod. 'I'm glad Sasuke didn't see that,' Itachi thought in amusement to himself. "That is acceptable. Also, once you've spotted the boy I want you to have Obito trail him. The whole point is to protect Naruto after all, even if we don't find anything else." Itachi said softly, muttering the last part to him-self.

"Why not just ask for social services to check this out? What's with all this Itachi?" The deep voice asked. Itachi thought for a moment. "I'm not sure where, but I've seen that boy's face before and I've got an awful feeling that it was not a good thing. I understand that it's a bit irrational but I have a gut wrenching feeling that this is something much bigger than just a simple case of abuse. Please just bare with me and do me this favor?" Itachi asked. The voice on the other end sighed deeply. "For you kid, I'd jump off a roof if you asked me too. You say it's a gut feeling then I believe you, you're not someone to follow your intuition so that's definitely saying something." The deep voice said. Itachi thanked the man and went back to dinner, though the young man couldn't help but feel a dark foreboding of the events to come.


Naruto cursed. The knife barely made a scratch across the arm of the big man before him, a nick that could easily be ignored, though the anger in the man's eyes as he dodged the blade would not be so easily denied. Naruto brandished the knife threateningly in the man's direction. "You just pissed me off real bad kid," Marco said calmly, but his eyes were alight with something that Naruto had seen before many times while with men of the Bujuu organization. Eyes that overflowed with a need for aggression, an unbalanced mind that could only find peace after they'd felt the adrenaline rush of bringing another under their power, dominating them and proving their superiority. Naruto supposed, after living amongst these type of people for so long, he truly grew to love denying them the satisfaction of superiority. He would admit it to be a suicidal tendency, but many times it was the only thing that kept him sane. If he allowed them the satisfaction of seeing him break then Naruto knew that he'd die, just as Yugito did.

"Oh, you must feel like such a big strong man, trying to frighten a twelve year old whose leg is fucked up and is starving. The Great Marco, capable of nothing but bullying those half his height." Naruto mocked. Naruto watched the man's eyes flash dangerously, the dark-skinned knuckles lightening under fisted fingers, steps slightly stiff in pure anger. "Oh dear, I hit a soft spot and hurt your big manly feelings." Naruto said with a touch of fake sadness. "Here let me make it better," Naruto said suddenly and cheerfully, "Marco-san, Marco-san! Please stop being so mean, I can't take your awful power, let me bow down to you." Naruto cried dramatically, flourishing one of his hands and doing a fake small bow. Marco lost it and with a roar tried to slam Naruto against the wall behind him. Naruto expected it though and dove low and fast, thrusting the knife as hard as he could into the man.

Then something unexpected happened. Something gripped the wrist of the hand that held the knife tight enough to make him scream out in surprised pain before the knife could make contact. Naruto tried to rip whatever it was off and felt skin as he did so. It was Marco's hand, Naruto looked up into the dark brown eyes above him in shock. "Sigui warned me about your tactics little Naruto and I've known you long enough to know that you don't piss people off for no reason," the man whispered calmly. "You're very good, but I forgot to tell you something." Naruto pulled at his wrist, desperately trying to release it from the ever-tightening grip. Marco leaned forward till his head practically sat on the little blondes shoulder. With a final squeeze Marco forced Naruto to drop the knife.

"I'm higher ranked than Sigui and very good friends with Hachibi." Marco said quietly. Naruto stilled his attempts to free himself, feeling his body go numb. "Ever notice how you only see me when you're about to meet up with Hachibi or Killer Bee? Its because I'm here to make sure that they don't waste their time coming all the way to the States just to find out that bumbling idiot Sigui managed to lose you again. I admit though, you're a worthy opponent for a twelve year old and, if you make it to adulthood you'll be a force to be reckoned with." Marco said in amusement. Naruto tried to say something, but Marco pushed Naruto against the wall, hand lightly closing around his neck so that the blonde couldn't speak. "If only you didn't have that pesky little problem." Marco continued with a thoughtful expression, a finger tapping his wide but firm jaw. "What was it that Nibi was talking about the other day? It's at the tip of my tongue… Oh, yes that's right. You're a sever claustrophobic aren't you?" The man asked innocently. Again Naruto tried to speak, but the big hand around his neck squeezed his throat.

Naruto felt sick to his stomach. He wanted to get away from this man and run till his feet bled and then continue running, but there was no escape. There never was for him, just the reality that he would have to live through whatever they threw at him. Enduring, Yugito once commented, was a talent of his. "I did say that Sigui gave me the choice on how to punish you so long as it won't show and what better way than to force you to experience the thing you fear most?" Marco said slowly, drawing out each word with great pleasure. Naruto slammed his fists against the man's arm that held him, but the juggernaut of a man felt nothing and with his other hand reached out and pinned them above his head. Naruto struggled fiercely, much to the man's vast amusement, but no amount of strength from someone starved and hurt could cause the man to let go.

Marco dragged Naruto away from the wall, the boy yanking and kicking despite the incredible pain that wracked his other leg because of the weight on it. That's when Naruto found out where he was going. It seemed that there was a reason why Marco left the closet door wide open. Naruto gasped and struggled, if at all possible, harder against the restraint of the tall man. "This is your knew home for the next day and a half so I'd learn to love it." Marco said with his bellow like laugh. Marco shoved the small blonde into the closet, slamming it shut and quickly pulling the large, incredibly heavy dresser in front of the door. As Naruto was thrown into the darkness of the tiny closet he let out a petrified scream as his mind took him back to his imprisonment filled with visions of agony and bloody torture. Marco whistled merrily as the sounds of a body and fists slamming against the door filled the room. The terrified screams and sobbing from the child like music to his ears.


Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Shikamaru searched through the Internet, his curiosity having gotten the better of him, and not unexpectedly coming up with nothing about the blonde known as Naruto Uzumaki. The lazy strategist sighed heavily and peered up at the ceiling. He'd found nothing in the articles about the fire that took place two years ago that mentioned the blonde or even that a student may have started it. It had been an accident, a team of investigators later deducted. It was a joint middle-high school academy and the fire started in the third floor where most of the high school classes where held. A bottle of some kind of chemical acid broke over an electric plug and the resulting reaction caused a fire to spurt. It may have been taken out early except for the misfortune of a pile of papers being so close by and alighting like a Christmas tree. So Naruto was in no way the cause of the fire which meant that the horrible troublemaker with a homicidal tendency everyone talked about didn't exist.

"This is way too troublesome," Shikamaru mumbled as he finally clicked out of the search engine for the night. It was Sunday night after all and already seven at that, which meant exactly one week before the Thanksgiving holiday and two before their Camping trip. Shikamaru leaned on his elbows, hands unconsciously moving into his thinking pose and eyes sliding shut. So with one of the three persona's known as Naruto gone that meant it came down to either the class clown Naruto who smiled too big and talked too loud or the nervous, quiet person who didn't want people to know he was so small for fear of more bullying. Was Naruto a combination of the two or was he simply one and just a good actor? He made a decision. Shikamaru was a lazy person most of the time but when he set his mind to something there was nothing that could stand in his way.

He picked up the phone and dialed a number more familiar to him than his own. It rang for a few seconds, but no more, the Akamichi's never left people waiting too long for anything if they could help it. "Hello Shikamaru dear, Chouji will be down in a moment to talk, he's putting his stuff that's been in the living room for far too long back up into his room." Mrs. Akamichi said sweetly. Shikamaru loved the fact that the Akamichi's had caller I.D, it meant he had to do less explaining when he called, and Chouji's Mom was always very cool about his calling no matter what time it was. HIS mother would interrogate poor Chouji every time about how his entire day was and why he was calling and didn't like it if Chouji called while Shikamaru was doing homework or eating or chores. His mother was slightly exasperating, but he loved her any way, even if he wondered how his father could have fallen in love with such a troublesome women.

A few moments later Chouji answered the phone. "Hey Shika what's up?" Chouji asked. Shikamaru smiled to him-self, if it were Ino she'd have immediately begun talking about her day, but with Chouji it was easy to simply get to the point. "What do you think of Naruto?" Shikamaru asked bluntly. There was a pause on the other end and Shikamaru could imagine the confused and surprised look on his best friends features. "Um, I think he's a pretty cool guy. I mean, I know what people say about him and I know he gets in trouble with the teachers a lot, but I've never seen him do anything mean to anybody who didn't first say something horrible to him. I don't really know much about him other than that though." Chouji said carefully. Shikamaru nodded in thought, knowing that Chouji would know exactly what he was doing. "Chouji, those rumors you heard about him, about how he murdered some classmates by starting a fire?" Shikamaru asked and continued when he heard a confirmation grunt. "There all false. The fire was an accident in a Chem. Lab. I want to know how the rumor started and what Naruto's really like and I want your help." Shikamaru said. There was another pause on the other line as his friend digested what he said before his best friend replied. "Shika… I think that's a great idea."


Obito Uchiha sighed dramatically from within his shaded windowed car early Monday morning, parked outside Community Academy. It was an evil hour, the sun barely up and birds chirping sickeningly sweet, merry tunes of life. Obito tapped his foot irritably, checking the face of every student that hopped out of cars and walked from the bus parking lots. They'd yet to find a single glimpse of either the man named Sigui Thomas or the child named Naruto Uzumaki. He was looking for the I.D of Uzumaki; male, four foot-two inches, blonde, blue eyed, petite size, six distinguishing scars on his cheeks and usually wearing an orange sweater. He'd yet to see any child with any scars at all and no orange in sight, apparently it wasn't in season. Made his job easier he supposed, but he happened to like the color orange.

'Naruto… Naruto… where have I heard that name before?' Obito asked him-self as he laid his chin on top of the steering wheel. 'Why does it sound so familiar?' Obito watched as two girls walked by, both blondes, but one died a rosette pink. That caused him to raise an eyebrow. Seriously, kids these days truly didn't understand how silly they looked when they did that kind of stuff and the consequences. Well, when her hair falls out from over dying it she'd learn. The platinum blonde seemed pretty angry about something if the flailing of her arms had anything to say about it. Obito shrugged and continued scanning the crowd, wondering why they would bother looking here in the first place. If this kid went missing with his guardian wouldn't the school be the last place they'd go? And considering that there wasn't even any real evidence that this kid was being abused in the first place why were they looking for them? For all any of them knew this Sigui guy and Naruto kid could just be staying at a friends house for a few nights. He wanted to go to his nephew and demand what he'd been thinking when he decided to assign him to this jo… Wait a minute.

Obito's head shot up. 'No…it couldn't be. There's no way…" Obito thought before he leaned into the back seat and grabbed a big pile of books and folders. Obito set it on his lap, setting the books aside and rummaged through the folders. He flipped through folder after folder till he got to the one that he wanted. The one that had the email from his best friend, Kakashi, sent him about one of his students who he believed to be being neglected and possibly abused along with the information on the kid. He'd barely looked at the name before sending it off to be thoroughly investigated. After all Kakashi rarely asked him for favors so he'd not thought twice about denying it to him. It had only been a few days ago that he'd received information from one of his 'special' officers on the boy, but Obito had been swamped with work and only had time to shove it in the car. Obito reread the message from Kakashi, paying special attention this time and cursed profusely when the name on the email matched the report from Itachi.

Obito scanned the crowds of students again, this time with more interest, every few seconds looking down at the email. So this kid got the attention of not only his nephew but also his best friend? How'd he manage to do that? He knew that Kakashi was a teacher of his younger nephew Sasuke so maybe that's how it managed to get back to Itachi. Obito sighed, this was fantastic, and so if he screwed up he'd be chewed up on two sides instead of simply one. Obito noticed that the crowd of students was beginning to thin out. His curiosity be damned. Being careful to keep an eye out for the blonde Obito opened up the report from his 'special' officer. As Obito read through the report he found his mouth unhinge a bit, eyes moving from the paper to the students repeatedly, before finally he felt his eyes stopping at the end of the report. What the hell was he suppose to think about this? Had his 'special' officer mistaken for the first time or was this somehow accurate?

The warning bell caused Obito to snap up to attention. He scanned the students, now almost completely thinned out, all heading in before they were late. The front of the school was deserted of cars except for his little green Saturn, for undercover purposes of course, his nice mint condition mustang back home. So when the black marsadees (sp?) vehicle pulled up to the curb it held his full attention. He couldn't see inside the car, since whoever it was also had his windows tinted, but a stream of cigarette smoke drifted from a cracked window on the drivers side. A back door opened and a rather small figure in a huge black jacket that went just passed the knees with the hood pulled over their head and a blue shoulder bag got out of the car. Obito sighed in irritation. It was not the orange sweater described by the report so it probably wasn't him.

Almost all students were inside, Obito groaned in annoyance, the kid hadn't showed then. The small student in the black coat was only half way down the path, the last student to enter the school. Obito briefly wondered why the hell the person was walking so slow but shrugged it off as merely not wanting to go to school, he him-self being one of those students back in the day. Obito turned on his car with every intention of heading back his office and informing Itachi of what he'd just learned when the student turned around and looked back at the black marsadees. Obito nearly hit the accelerator he was so shocked. Quickly picking up his camera from the seat beside him, he zoomed in and took a shot before sighing in relief as the kid turned back around and headed into the school.

Not wanting to be suspicious Obito quickly drove away and parked a few blocks from the school. When there he took out the camera and hurriedly found the picture of the boy. The first thought that came to Obito's mind was that the boy looked like he was ten instead of twelve, the coat didn't help the boy's case much either, swallowing him up like a black whole. A pair of blue goggles sat on his forehead, which Obito couldn't help but admire being a fan of the accessory him-self. The next thing that struck him was the boy's face. There were dark rings around his eyes, meaning he'd not slept in a while, something his whole body suggested with the way it seemed to slump forward. The look though, was pretty scary; fearful, nervous, just downright broken would be how Obito would put it. He'd be meeting with Kakashi real soon that was for sure.


Naruto winced again, a small cough escaping his lips as he readjusted his bag over his shoulder.. The make shift cast he'd created for his leg made it difficult, but bearable to walk, though still fairly painful. Left. Right. Wince. Left. Right. Wince. And repeat. All the way to Iruka's classroom. Naruto entered the room just after the late bell rang, unsurprisingly to be stopped by Iruka. "I'm sorry, but who are you?" Iruka asked, the hood too far over the blondes face to see him. "What? Can't recognize me Iruka sensei?" Naruto weakly tried at a joke as he pulled down the hood. "Naruto?" Iruka asked shocked. "When was the last time you slept? You look like a zombie for goodness sake." Iruka demanded. Naruto shrugged in response before slowly and carefully moving back to his seat, a slight limp in his step. Iruka looked liked he was going to stop him for a moment, but then thought better of it. He'd talk to the blonde after class.

Those from the soccer team openly stared at him as he sat down. Naruto, not appreciating the attention, pulled the hood back over his head and laid his head down. Everyone was whispering around them, some not so quietly and many not so nicely. "Jeez look at him, I bet he's on drugs." "Maybe the loser finally got what he deserved." "I bet he murdered someone and was up all night finding a place to bury them." "When'd he lose all that weight? Is he anorexic now?" "What's with the emo clothes, is he finally showing his true colors?" "Maybe he got tired of being called fat and decided to starve himself to look cool." "Hey, do you think it was Marijuana? I hear people lose a lot of weight when they start that shit." "Bet the psycho freak spent all night burning houses." The soccer players watched worriedly as Naruto seemed to shrink in on himself instead of yelling back as he usually did. Iruka cleared his throat loudly, anger clear in his eyes as the students attention was brought back to the teacher. Iruka went strait into the lesson, lashing out at anyone who attempted to talk again, one eye on the students and one eye on Naruto.

Chouji, who was only two seats ahead of him, got up and cautiously moved to the seat beside the blonde as if fearful he might break if he made any sudden movements. Iruka pretended not to see it, aware that Chouji was one of his gentler students and held no ill intent for the blonde. "Naruto? Are you alright?" Chouji asked softly. Naruto didn't answer, only attempted to bury his head deeper into his arms, hands hidden beneath his head. Chouji reached out and softly nudged the blonde who flinched at the contact and looked up tiredly. Naruto mumbled something and Chouji bent down to better hear him. " 'M fine, jus tired is all." The blonde repeated. Chouji nodded uncertainly, making sure to keep an eye on the blonde for the remainder of the period.

When the time came to pack up Naruto was fast asleep at his desk. Chouji gently shook the blonde awake who only moaned in reply. "Naruto, class is over." Chouji said as Shikamaru made his way over to them with many of the others not too far behind. "'Kay, I'm going." Naruto said tiredly. "Are you sure your alright?" Chouji asked, leaning forward, trying to get a glimpse of the blondes face. Naruto didn't reply this time merely nodded as he gingerly got up. Naruto blurrily looked around, several students were swarming Iruka, asking last minute questions about the trip, if Naruto wanted to get out without the man harassing him it was now. Chouji watched Naruto placed his bag over his shoulder, curiously noting that Naruto was wearing a pair of black gloves. While the weather warranted a jacket or sweater it was nowhere near cold enough for gloves.

As the others closed in Chouji watched confused as Naruto flinched before stumbling backwards. "Hey! Naruto are you okay?" Chouji asked reaching out a hand to steady the blonde. "I said 'M fine." Naruto snapped, startling Chouji who looked hurt. Naruto limped forward and practically pushed passed Shino who quickly moved out of the way. "Dude I swear that guys Bi polar sometimes." Kiba muttered from beside Shino. "I mean one minute he's helping us then he's yelling at us then he's all tired and shit and then he's back to yelling at us." Kiba said a bit exasperated. Shikamaru sighed in annoyance. "Your dense aren't you Kiba?" Shikamaru commented. "Hey!" Kiba cried indignantly. "At the soccer game Naruto was hurt when he yelled at us and just now he was extremely tired when he yelled at us. He's not bi polar he obviously just doesn't like being bothered when he's not feeling good." Shikamaru explained. "Oh, that makes more sense." Kiba said in a thoughtful tone. Shikamaru's head dropped in exasperation before snapping up in shock at the sound of a violent epitaph of curses from Iruka as the man realized Naruto was gone.


"Naruto!" Naruto's head snapped up as his name was called out by Raido. His eyes blurrily looking around the room to see the badly scarred face of his teacher. "I know that Hamlet is a bit depressing but I'd appreciate it if you would stay awake to hear it since you will be having a test on it." Raido said as he turned a page in the literature book within his hands. "Since I have your attention now would you please explain to me the relationship between Hamlet and his mother?" Naruto blinked several times trying to stay awake and produce coherent thought. "Um… incest?" Naruto asked tiredly as students began to giggle around him. Raido sighed. "I'm afraid it's a bit more complicated then that, Naruto." The man said.

Chouji and Kiba watched with sympathy as Naruto was interrogated on one of Shakespeare's most famous plays and painfully boring one's at that. "Um he was angry with her for… um… he loved her but was mad because she got married to the uncle right after his dad kicked the bucket…and was pretending to be crazy so he jumped her?" Naruto mumbled out, elucidating a great many of snickers from the other students. Raido was not so amused. "I would not have put it quite like that but that is the basic idea. I'd suggest you reread Hamlet's full plan though since you seemed to have muddled it a bit." Raido said as he moved on to another student. Naruto sighed in relief before coughing into his hand and then, much to Chouji's and Kiba's amusement and worry, practically dropped back on the desk fast asleep.

When the class finally ended Chouji and Kiba watched as Raido shook Naruto awake and whispered something to the blonde, to which he nodded his head and said something back. Raido nodded his head and laughed a little to which Naruto gave a small grin before standing up. Naruto walked over to the door where Chouji and Kiba stood waiting for him and the two noticed that Raido frowned as the man saw the limp the blonde had in his walk. "Hey Naruto! Did you ever go to the doctor for that leg of yours?" Kiba asked, purposely loud to confirm the teacher's thoughts. Shikamaru had said he suspected Naruto to be more hurt than the blonde let on and that it might be a good idea to get more teacher's to pay attention to the blonde for his own sake. So Kiba patted himself on the back for his absolutely brilliant plan if he did say so him-self. The only problem was, was that Naruto appeared to be a good liar. Naruto glowered at him for the comment and bared a tight grin. "Yes. He said it was minor and would heal right up in a few weeks." Naruto gritted out, somehow managing to keep that fake grin on his face. "Then where's your cast?" Kiba asked pointedly. Naruto frowned in annoyance at him. "It didn't need a cast. It just needed a few stitches and is all bandaged up." At that Kiba hesitated. At the game it seemed a lot worse than merely something a few stitches could fix, but perhaps Naruto was telling the truth and it was minor. Perhaps Shikamaru was wrong for once. At any rate it seemed to appease Mr. Raido, which meant that Kiba's plan was shot. If Naruto was lying he was a damn good at it.

Chouji patted Kiba on the back, a silent signal to say that he tried his best. Kiba just huffed in annoyance. Naruto limped passed them and down the hall, into the bathroom. Kiba started to walk away, but stopped when he realized Chouji wasn't following him. "You coming man?" Kiba asked. Chouji shook his head. "I've got my next class in Gym with Gaples. Since Naruto has him too I'll just wait for him." Chouji said with a shrug. Kiba grinned at the shorter but rounder preteen. "Man your lucky, I've got Mr. Stick up his ass himself next, Ebisu for history." Kiba said despairingly. Chouji laughed and waved his friend away as he left down the hall.

A few minutes later Chouji walked into the bathroom from impatience. "Naruto, well be late for Gym if you don't hurry up! What are you doing in here?" Chouji asked as he looked around and spotted Naruto's ratty old tennis shoes under the handicapped stall. "Why are you waiting for me Chouji?" Naruto asked half in irritation half in surprise. "We have the same class so I thought we'd walk together, I didn't think you'd take this long though," Chouji said defensively. "Thanks but… I'm gonna be here for a bit longer so why don't you just go?" Naruto called out, his voice still sounding incredibly tired. Chouji moved closer to the stall. "What are you doing any ways?" Chouji asked again. "Just changing the bandages," Naruto replied. Chouji frowned. "Yourself? Why didn't you just ask someone to do it for you?" Chouji asked incredulously. There was a long pause from the other side, Naruto trying really hard to come up with a good reason. "Um… It's not hard, just time consuming. Seriously Chouji you should go before your late!" Naruto called out. The late bell rang.

Chouji winced and then sighed. "Well I'm already late so why don't you open the stall so I can help?" Chouji asked. There was an even longer pause before a dejected sigh came from the other end. "I'm not bandaging my leg Chouji." At this Chouji just stared at the door in compete and utter confusion and annoyance. "Then wha…" Chouji began before being interrupted. "I'm bandaging my fingers. I accidentally fucked them up this weekend." Naruto called out tiredly, ending in a cough. "What did you do?" Chouji asked deeply concerned. "I was um… I was helping my guardian to um… fix his car and… um one of Sigui's um… friends was holding a large piece of the um.. engine and he accidentally dropped it and it smashed my fingers." Naruto said nervously from the other side. There was some shuffling before the door was opened and Chouji saw what Naruto was talking about. "God Naruto," Chouji breathed, flinching at the sight.

All of his fingers had purple marks all over them and were swollen, but even that wasn't the worst of it. Some of his nails were cracked all the way to the middle while others were missing a large chunk of nail and two fingers where missing the nail all together Bloody scabs had formed over all over them and scratches sat scattered all over his fingers and hand. His pair of black gloves and bandages with blood marks sat on the ground behind the blonde, one finger already rapped though badly, since the blonde was trying to do it by himself. His fingers where the result of him desperately banging and scratching on the closet door, his severe claustrophobia nearly driving him into a seizure as had been the case in past events such as this, in the end he'd merely passed out from hunger. Naruto's hands' possessed a fine tremor to them as well, whether from the pain that wracked them or if he was still shaken from being locked up like that Naruto didn't know. Chouji didn't need to know that though, no the chubby boy beside him could merrily live his life believing that it was an accident, that he'd not been purposefully imprisoned within a closet for nearly two days as punishment for helping them win a silly little soccer game.

"We should take you to the nurse for this Naruto!" Chouji said in alarm when it finally sunk in what he was seeing. "No, no," Naruto said with a grin, "The doc said that as long as I put Neosporin on it and keep it rapped up they'll be fine. They should be somewhat bearable in a few days." Naruto said casually. Chouji also didn't need to know that Naruto knew this information from past experience, no that tidbit would go to the grave with him along with all his other secrets, they'd definitely need a deep whole when they buried him. Chouji frowned at him, but slowly nodded. "Sit down and let me do it for you. You should never have tried to do this yourself Naruto, you should have gone to Iruka or something." Chouji said as he picked up the Neosporin and some cue tips that Naruto had earlier pulled from his bag. "Hey Chouji?" Naruto asked as the preteen began to apply the medicine. "Hm?" Chouji replied. Naruto kept his eyes trained on his hands. "I don't want Iruka to be worried about it, he's already like a mother hen, I don't want him to blow it out of proportion. So can you promise not to tell him?" Naruto asked.

Chouji didn't like this one bit. There was something wrong with the way Naruto handled being hurt. It was more than simply being stubborn or just trying to be some cool macho guy who could handle pain. It was almost like… like he thought he was in the wrong for being hurt. As much as that sounded strange that was the best way to describe how Naruto acted. "You know, it was an accident Naruto, no one's gonna blame you if you tell someone what's wrong. If you explain that you got hurt then I bet it would make your life a lot easier instead of hiding it with gloves." Chouji pointed out quietly. Naruto snorted in amusement, the humor lacking ever more when the snort turned into a harsh cough.

"The hell you know," Naruto said shocking Chouji. "Last year I sprained my wrist, something you can't hide, and you know what some assholes did?" Naruto asked as Chouji began to work on the other hand. Chouji shook his head, head tilted to the side a bit, showing he was listening with rapped attention. "They thought it was fucking hilarious to twist my wrist and ask if it hurt. Every. Single. Day." Naruto said heatedly. Chouji stopped rapping and looked at Naruto with wide eyes. "Because of them I ended up with some wrist bone sticking out for nearly half a year, couldn't turn it all the way and made writing painful. Then one day it just popped back in, God that hurt." Naruto said.

"Why didn't you say something to the teacher's?" Chouji asked. Once more Naruto snorted, though slightly more amused. "Gaple's thought it was funny too," Naruto said as Chouji finished the last finger and stared at Naruto in shock. Naruto cautiously picked up his gloves and slipped them back on. "Not like anyone's ever tried to stop them and no one ever said anything about how Gaple's treats me so I didn't see much point in complaining to anyone cause I didn't think anyone cared. I'm not about to go screaming about my fingers now though, I mean, would you?" Naruto asked, looking at Chouji with a weary expression. Chouji shook his head, guiltily thinking about the last few months of just watching Gaple's continuously harass Naruto. "So how come you never dressed out?" Chouji asked as he helped Naruto clean up the remaining trash they'd made. "Didn't want anyone to know how small I was," Naruto said simply, not adding that he only had one turtleneck shirt and didn't want any one to see his scars. Again, Chouji winced, thinking about the many times people shoved the blonde around, and simply nodded again.

As they walked out of the bathroom Chouji slowed down to keep pace with the limping blonde. Chouji also took note of the put out expression on the blonde's face, eyelids half closed and body tilted in a way that caused Chouji to wonder it he'd fall over at any moment. "Is that why you don't want anyone to know about your leg?" Chouji asked quietly. Well, no, that wasn't the reason but he'd take it. "Yeah, who knows, maybe they'd think it fun to see if it hurts if they kick it," Naruto said with a bitter laugh. Chouji grimaced. When Naruto suddenly stumbled Chouji was caught unprepared and barely caught the blonde who smiled up weakly at him. "Sorry, sorry, thanks for catching me." Naruto stood up, eyes unfocused as he tried to reassembled him-self. "Thanks for everything actually. For staying behind and waiting and then for helping me wrap my hands. You didn't need to do that." Naruto said as he stared at the ground. Chouji blushed and gave Naruto a wide grin. "That's what friends are for!" Chouji boasted loudly.

"Friends?" Naruto asked quietly. Chouji suddenly felt uncertain as he looked at the blonde, he was never one to be confident in him-self when it came to making friends, and so it embarrassed him that he'd assumed that Naruto thought they were. Naruto just stared at him for a moment before blushing a little him-self. "Never had a friend my own age before." Naruto mumbled, but to Chouji it seemed as if he'd screamed it. Chouji almost face faulted, but then recovered him-self. With an even bigger grin he pulled Naruto's arm over his shoulder to better support the much shorter boy and yelled out; "Well then I guess I'll be your official first and have to teach you the ropes!"


Naruto frowned deeply. After painfully limping up three flights of stairs the moment Gym ended it was to find Anko not in her office, so she'd not come to school today. Naruto's stomach grumbled harshly in anger at him. He'd been given a meal last night when he'd gotten out, but while big it hardly made him feel better after two and a half days without food. Marco thoughtfully, surprisingly, tossed a water bottle in the closet when he'd not been looking before their fight. He'd not gotten to it till he'd practically fallen on it from exhaustion. He'd greedily drank it all up, almost choking on it and making himself sick from the sure amount of water suddenly dropping into his stomach. He'd thrown up one-third of the bottle because of it before forcefully making him-self drink slowly. A human can live seven days without food, three without water. That rule had been permanently marked into him by the time he was five years old.

Maybe he could pick something out quickly from the trash at the end of the lunch period before the second group of students came into the cafeteria. The kids here were wasteful, some didn't even touch their food before they dropped it into the trash. If he was real lucky maybe he'd be able to get something free from someone before they even tossed it. Naruto didn't normally resort to that type of thing, but he could feel the acid eating away at his stomach and the sides of his vision began to fail him when he'd been in Gym class arguing with Gaples. It hadn't been so bad today though, since Chouji and even Shino had been beside him asking for the man to just let him participate without dressing out. It hadn't worked, but just having them beside him and not having to deal with the man on his own had been a relief.

Naruto sighed as he turned around and started to limp down the stairs. He paused as his chest tightened, preparing his body for the upcoming cough. It came, the coughs slightly deeper than they'd been the last few days. Naruto took a moment more to take a few deep, calming breaths, but the tight feeling in his chest remained. Naruto continued on. Huge dark spots sat in his vision making it difficult to place his footing right. His body leaned heavily on the rail along the stairs, the rickety way it bent under his small weight making him wish that he still had Chouji to support him. He wished his hands would stop shaking too and that they wouldn't hurt so much every time he touched the railing. There were only a few more steps left when it happened. Naruto suddenly felt him-self tip sideways and everything went black.


Shikamaru bit into his food as he thought. He'd been asking people about Naruto all morning, everyone outside of the soccer team giving him relatively the same answers. Naruto was an awful troublemaker of a person and a loser that was loud and obnoxious. Yet when he asked them what awful things he's done they talked either about the fire that he never started or couldn't say anything. When he spoke to those on the soccer team though, it painted a completely different story. Shino and Kiba told him about how Naruto was bullied not only by other students but by some teachers as Shino added. How Naruto came from a different country and wasn't even in the states when the fire started. They also talked about the accidental meeting on Halloween and the 'ass,' as Kiba described Naruto's guardian, who talked to Naruto so horribly. Hinata told him about how Naruto didn't seem to believe much in him-self and how he didn't like others knowing that he was good at something, though Hinata refused to say how she knew this.

Sakura wasn't much help to him, she just continued to talk about how she didn't mean to hurt his feelings and that no matter what she did it ended up being the wrong thing, he began to get a headache after the first minute or so of listening to her. Neji seemed to be incredibly guilty about something he said to Naruto and only muttered darkly that 'I wasn't expecting him to simply accept it like that' and 'frickin felt like an ass when he showed up and got hurt.' Neji felt no need to elaborate and Shikamaru wasn't so sure he wanted to know what it was about. Lee and Tenten couldn't tell him anything, only that they thought he was nice. Ino only commented that she never would have said anything bad about him if she'd known how cute he was without the hideous hoodie on, another dead end there. Sasuke, surprisingly, had been the most informative of the group. He'd told Shikmaru, in whispers of course, about the bruises he'd seen and meeting Naruto's guardian, confirming Kiba's first assessment of him as an ass. He also mentioned that Naruto seemed to be a lot smarter and sarcastic when they were out volunteering than he ever was in the classroom. The final piece that hit it all home though was when Chouji told him about the incident in the bathroom and their conversation.

So Shikamaru thought and considered and analyzed it all. From what he saw at the soccer game Naruto was definitely underweight. From the facts gathered he knew that Naruto was abused both physically and emotionally at home and at school. These facts alone already had large, flashy alarms ringing in his ears and demanding why it took him so long to see it. He knew why though, he'd simply not cared to pay attention to the blonde till Naruto became apart of his life, till it all was shoved in his face. That ashamed him more than anything else. What alarmed him further though were the other facts. The school seemed to be aware of what was going on if what he'd seen from Iruka, heard from Shino and understood from the yearbooks told him.

He'd gotten his father to pull a few strings to get him the original filmstrip copies of all the students from the last picture day, saying that he had to do a project at school and thought it would be really cool to use them in a catalogue. He never asked his father to use his powerful position to get him something so Shikaku had been fairly amused at his son's insistence and gotten them for him. As said before, Shikamaru was an incredibly lazy person, but when he was determined to do something there wasn't anything that could deter him and no ideas left untried. He'd hurriedly searched the pictures and stopped dead when he'd seen Narutos'. Naruto's hood was pulled down behind him all the way, something that almost never happened while the blonde was in class, and for once his big grin was nowhere in sight. A large yellowish-black bruise covered the left side of Naruto's face and the blonde's bottom lip was split open. Naruto looked dejectedly at the camera, not caring about what he looked like for his school picture. As Shikamaru sat there in his room and stared at it, he had the feeling that Naruto knew it wasn't going to be in the yearbook, that it didn't matter if he let his guard done or exposed his face. To Shikamaru, Naruto looked far more real in that picture than the person that joked and laughed in class all the time. Perhaps that's what scared him so much.

So the school knew about what was going on which lead to a number of questions that he couldn't even begin to contemplate at the moment. It was what Chouji told him that more than anything else got to Shikamaru. Whatever situation Naruto was in, it was tearing the blonde apart, and Naruto was lying about it. Naruto knew what was going on, knew that the school was keeping it all quiet, but for some reason was keeping quiet about it all as well. Which meant that something, something bigger than Naruto's own safety, was keeping him quiet. Something was being dangled over him more precious to him than his own life. The question was why someone would go to such an extent just to keep Naruto quiet? What did Naruto know that would have even school officials working to cover it up? The most important question though was how Shikamaru could talked to Naruto without these people knowing, how could Shikamaru help without ending up hurting Naruto more? One thing was for sure, if he wanted to make sure Naruto got out of whatever his situation was safely, he would have to pick and chose carefully whom he told about his thoughts. He knew and trusted every person on the soccer team, but knew him or her well enough to know some of them might unintentionally do or say something to tip off the wrong person.


"Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck," Naruto groaned as he blurrily woke up. The side of is face felt as if someone took a sledgehammer to it. Naruto painfully pulled his arms under him and sat up awkwardly, his leg blazing in an agonizing symphony. Mozart would be proud. The 'sledgehammer' that hit his face was the tiled floor beneath him. He'd fallen a total of two steps, but a point blank fall like with no motion to stop the fall would leave a colorful bruise along his face, if it wasn't already there. Naruto calmly took off one of his gloves and gently touched his face and a top his head, checking for blood in case he'd cracked his head open. No blood, thank goodness, but he supposed there could still be a concussion and he'd fall asleep any moment, never to wake again. 'Hm… that actually doesn't sound like a bad way to go,' Naruto thought as he accidentally jolted his leg again and was reminded of the painful condition his body was in. To be truthful Naruto was scared shitless. It had been a long, long time since he'd simply blacked out like that. It made him wonder how long of a black out he'd had, but assumed it couldn't have been more than a few minutes since no one had come out screaming. Even the people at this school weren't that heartless that they'd leave him lying unconscious on the ground. At that moment Naruto almost felt like laughing at him-self. Hadn't he just the other day been thinking how nobody ever believed the whole 'I fell down the stairs' story? True it wasn't out of clumsiness but you still had to love the irony.

Naruto felt his body shudder slightly, as if trying to decide between getting up and blacking out again, as he stood up. He took several long moments to just stand there, letting his eyes slowly adjust to the light, the blurring fuddled up shapes eventually morphing into real walls and lockers. So he made it to the bottom and was in the hall. Alright, that was good, it meant the cafeteria wasn't too far from here. It felt weird, almost surreal, to still go to the cafeteria after blacking out. It wasn't like he could ask for help though. Even his doctor was rigged for Christ's sake, though he supposed that rigged wasn't the right word, it was more like paid off. If ever their was an event that Naruto absolutely HAD to go to the hospital the principal of the school, Danzo, would make sure that it was that doctor that was ready to receive him. Kyuubi somehow found a way to replace a man named Sarutobie with Danzo as the head of the school. How he managed to spread his influence half way across the world to a single middle school would forever remain a mystery to the blonde and a heavy reminder that he was screwed no matter where he went, well almost.

Naruto felt something wet spreading from underneath his goggles and realized that the fall caused them to dig into his skin and cut him deep enough to draw a small amount of blood. He pulled them off and felt his forehead, at least the big scar hadn't been reopened. Since he'd received it several weeks ago the damned thing reopened on three different occasion, usually when he slept since he had a habit of sleeping on his stomach. It took his back the longest time to heal, so he'd avoided a lot of pain by sleeping on his stomach. When his back finally healed it was so scarred that it actually became completely numb to him, a trait that had been useful to him in the past. Point was that the cut needed stitches so if you continuously put weight on it, in other words sleeping on it, the cut would break open and the process of re-scabbing would begin again. Naruto sighed and put the goggles back on before pulling the hood as far over his head as it would go, shadowing his face.

Naruto limped into the cafeteria, scanning the crowd and checking how much food was left on their trays to gauge how much time had passed. They were about half way done, some people even still in line. That meant only about ten to fifteen minutes had passed since lunch began. It also meant that there was only about ten minutes more to weight before people would start filing out. Naruto breathed a sigh of relief, he could wait ten minutes to eat. There was a large amount of movement out of the corner of his eye. Naruto turned out of curiosity and was nearly floored with surprise. A good majority of the soccer team… was waving him over? Naruto moved cautiously towards them, unsure of what they were doing.

"Naruto! Come over here and sit with us," Tenten called cheerfully. Naruto limped over slowly, staring at them as they waved him over. "Naruto, over here," Chouji called as he took a big bite out of a banana. Naruto lowered him-self between Chouji and Kiba. Kiba flashing him a grin before turning back to Ino in some type of an argument. Chouji stared at him for a moment, to which Naruto felt extremely awkward and confused. "Where's your tray?" Chouji eventually asked, eyeing the empty spot in front of the blonde. "Oh… um well I sorta forgot my lunch money." Naruto said as be looked away with a blush. Chouji swallowed his mouth full and stared at him incredulously. "Forgot it?" Chouji asked aghast. "You want my sandwich then?" Chouji asked as he picked it up and held it out for him to take. Naruto's stomach growled so loud that it caught the attention of several people at the table. The light blush on his cheeks turned to a full-blown scarlet. "Um, I wouldn't be able to give you anything back," Naruto muttered.

Chouji grinned and took one of Naruto's hands in his before gently placing the sandwich there, remembering the blonde's injured fingers. "One of the rules of having a friend is that you don't let them go hungry," Chouji boasted proudly. "Thanks," Naruto said tiredly. Normally he'd put up a fight, he knew nothing could be gotten for free after all. Normally he'd not have sat down since the people around him were too close to him for his comfort. Normally though he was not this hungry and not this exhausted. He just wanted to make that ache in his stomach go away for now so he gave in without so much as a protest. Naruto forced him-self to eat slowly, not wanting a repeat of vomiting because he'd eaten too fast like with the water. Still the whole thing was gone in a matter of minutes. The worst part was that it seemed to fire up his whole stomach with want for more, screaming at him and telling him exactly how hungry he was. Shikamaru, who'd been watching closely, leaned further passed Chouji so that Naruto could see him. "Yo, Naruto, I can't finish my food. You want it?" Shikamaru asked innocently. Naruto stared at him dumbly, clearly disbelieving the offer was real. Shikamaru held out a pear and another entire sandwich. "I ate a huge breakfast this morning so I'm not hungry at all, but I don't want to waste it either." Shikamaru explained. "You'd be doing me a favor if you ate it." Naruto hesitantly took it from Shikamaru's outstretched hands and nodded. Chouji peered at Shikamaru curiously, but didn't question his best friend why he'd just lied, he'd get it out of him later.


"Gone emo much?"

"No, my jacket was in need of a wash."

"But black?"

"It's Sigui's."

"He let you wear his coat?"

"Its out of fashion, he was gonna toss it anyhow."

"Hope you washed it before you wore it. Might get creep germs."

"There's no such thing as creep germs."

"Is too."

"Are not."

"IS TOO."

"Whatever."

"I win."

"Actually I do."

"What?"

"Look down."

"Fuck."

"Yup. Check mate."

"Damn you!"

"You already used that."

"Damn your children!"

"That too."

"Damn your children's children!"

"Mm. I don't think you've used that one yet."

Naruto shoveled the delicious baked potato piece into his mouth, savoring the flavor of ranch, bacon and melted cheese atop the soft white heaven. Since Anko hadn't been there yesterday she made up for it by bringing a special lunch Tuesday afternoon. A large bag of specially made 'bacon skins,' as they're called, from Applebee's. Small baked potatoes loaded with everything you could possibly put on top of them. Anko swung a finger in Naruto's direction and pointed, rather rudely it might be added, at Naruto's face. "I will defeat your evil mind games of distraction one day and then will give you a humiliating defeat." Anko proclaimed before stuffing her mouth with an especially large bite of potato. "You're the one who started the conversation." Naruto pointed out as he continued to bring the pieces back into their original position, he covered his mouth as another dry cough escaped, a few sprinkles of mash potatoes flying out in the process..

Anko mumbled something with her mouth full before loudly swallowing and taking a big gulp of her coke. "You must have used some kind of Jedi mind trick on me!" She repeated. Naruto looked at her blankly. "What's a Jedi mind trick?" he asked. Anko, unaware of Naruto's limited time within the states of America, literally had a heart attack. "There's no fricken way you don't know," Anko accused. "Unfortunately there is a way," Naruto mumbled as he finished setting it up. Anko huffed.

"You know from star wars?" Anko asked as she made the first move.

"Never heard of it." Naruto said as he too moved a pawn out.

"You are not American!" Anko proclaimed unknowingly giving Naruto a heart attack. "How'd you know?!" Naruto demanded. Anko blinked.

"Huh?" Anko asked as she moved a piece.

"Uuuuhhhh…" Naruto trailed off not sure what was going on.

"Wait, your really not American?" Anko asked as she realized what he meant.

"Didn't you just say that?!" Naruto demanded, definitely confused as hell.

"No, I meant, never mind. Your not American?" Anko asked again, fairly curious.

Naruto, too confused to think clearly, answered honestly. What could it hurt?

"Um, no, Japanese." Naruto answered.

"No way! Cool! Always loved their dango." Anko said happily. Naruto sweat dropped.


Thursday arrived much faster than Naruto thought it would. He thought that staying in the hotel, constantly only a few feet from Sigui for so long would scare him to death. Sigui almost never was in the hotel room and Naruto was more than happy to simply sleep the time away, since he still didn't feel well. In fact his coughing had been steadily getting worse. Naruto ignored it though, as he did most things. Happily enough his fingers were no longer swollen, scabby and painful, but not so big he could barely move them. The day before he left for Kyuubi's fun house of torture turned out rather pleasant, extremely pleasant actually. He spent homeroom with Sasuke beside him, the preteen making the excuse that he had a headache and didn't want to be bothered by the rest of the class. Second period was spent with Chouji and Kiba in front and behind him, each making jokes about the dreariness of Hamlet. In Gym Chouji and Shino again came to his aide and even managed to get Gaples to let him walk the track with them, well, limp in his case.

He spent lunch with Anko, playing a game she called Jingle, a stack of blocks that you pull out one by one till someone causes it to fall. When he went to history with Ebisu, Sakura even defended him when the man called him 'an imbecilic moron of a newfound level.' She'd been rather irate with the man and the indignant expression Ebisu's face as the girl yelled at him was something Naruto didn't think he or Ebisu would soon forget. In that moment he'd smiled warmly at her, thankful for the support, she'd blushed a surprising scarlet and nodded happily to him. Even mathematics with Nibi wasn't particularly painful since the women simply ignored him.

That's why Naruto should have expected what happened next. Things simply never went that well for him so there had to be a catch. That catch came in the form of four people that hated his guts; Tayuya, Joroubo, Sakon and Udon. He wouldn't make it to his last period of the day. Too bad too, Chemistry was one of his favorite classes. It could all be blamed on his limp. His slow walk assured that he was the last student to enter class every single period. So when he turned the corner and the four figures stood there like a wall between him and the class he couldn't help but curse. Technically they were leaning against the lockers, not standing in a formation of any sort, and probably simply skipping class with no idea that their favorite punching bag was only feet away from them. After all, Naruto always made sure to get into class long before they even made it to this location, so they would never expect to see him.

Naruto attempted to back away without the four spotting him, but his lungs tightened up with a horrible itching sensation. Naruto tried to hold it in, shoved his arm into his mouth even, but the loud barking cough escaped and echoed nastily in the empty halls. Four heads turned in his direction, elucidating four identical smirks as they recognized who it was. Naruto tried to run, but even he would admit it was a fairly stupid idea with his leg so messed up. So instead he dove for the closest classroom door handle. Unfortunately Joroubo beat him to it. The big oaf blocked out the entirety of the door with his sheer bulk. Naruto stumbled back so as not to run strait into the large teens hold and glanced around to find that he'd been blocked off. "Well, well, well if it aien't little Naruto," Sakon said as he put his hands on his hips. "Little Naruto indeed. We heard about how you been hiding in that ugly jacket of yours. Wonder exactly how small you'd be without that black one on you." Udon said from the opposite side. "Why don't we rip the fucking thing off and see?" Tayuya asked mockingly.

Naruto looked behind Joroubo, the door was five feet in front of him, if he just yelled then the teacher would come running. Naruto was about to do just that, but something shot out and gripped tightly over his mouth. Startled Naruto yanked back only to be pushed against the locker he'd unknowingly backed up towards. The thing around his mouth turned out to be Udon's pale hand. Naruto grabbed the arm, trying to remove it, but soon found both his arms pinned back by Sakon and Tayuya. "Can't have you ruining our fun before it even begins now can we?" Udon said teasingly. As Naruto pulled and yanked against the hold and attempted to bite the pale hand over his mouth, Udon unzipped the black jacket with his unoccupied hand before nodding to the others. Tayuya and Sakon nodded back and began to rip the rest of the jacket off, taking care to keep Naruto tight in their grip. Naruto tried to scream as he struggled, but the hand over his mouth had obviously done this before because Udon also kept a tight grip on his jaw, keeping his mouth fixed in place.

When the jacket finally came off Udon and Sakon sniggered in glee. "Why, your nothing but a little runt!" Sakon hissed. "You certainly do struggle a lot for such a whee little thing," Udon breathed out through suppressed laughter. Joroubo moved closer and grabbed a tight hold onto Naruto's straw colored hair, making sure not to jerk loose any of the others holds. "I'd say that he's small enough to fit inside one of the lockers," Joroubo said in a contemplative voice. Naruto froze in horror. "Yeah," Sakon agreed excitedly, "What about the one at the end of the hall? The one that's cracked open cause it's broken? Once it's shut it's stuck, he'll be in there for hours before they get him out." Naruto ripped at the holds in full out panic, tearing and screaming as loud as he could. "Hahaha, looks like he doesn't like that idea, huh?" Udon asked with a smirk. Naruto felt tears prick at his eyes as he continued to yank and pull and rip away from them as hard as he could.

One of them picked him up, Joroubo, and tightly squeezed his chest to the point he couldn't breath. "Stop squirming you little brat," Joroubo said irritated. Naruto gasped for breath, tears freely rolling down his cheeks now. "Oh look the little guy's crying, I kinda feel bad now," Udon said with a laugh. Naruto continued to struggle while desperately trying to gain air into his lungs. They felt like they were on fire and he could feel his body attempting to cough but coming out more like deep wheezes. Naruto's entire vision went black, throwing him in darkness. Suddenly his body was forced into a small space. He heard the sound of a loud bang, the sound of the metal door being forced shut. "Look he really did fit! How funny, I wished we'd known he was so small before or else we could have done this sooner." Joroubo bellowed out.

Naruto's fingers traced the sides as panic consumed him utterly. He felt metal all around him, he couldn't move, it felt as if his lungs were going to explode. Naruto felt his mouth open, but didn't hear a sound escape. He banged against the door of the locker, tried to move, but couldn't. The darkness was all around him. He heard the sounds of the door opening. Kyuubi stepped through. No, he was in school wasn't he? Kyuubi wasn't at school, was he? He heard the sounds of people. No it was just one. Just Kyuubi's horrible deep voice. The man stepped towards him. He screamed. The man forced him to the ground, holding his arms. He couldn't move, breathing was painful. He fought hard against Kyuubi's cold metal hands… metal hands. No, Kyuubi's hands were always painfully warm. Now they were cold though. He felt Kyuubi lean closer to him, whispering in his ear about how much he enjoyed this and suddenly he felt a hot horrible pain in his back. Then the questions. Always the questions, demanding him to tell him what he wanted. Naruto couldn't though, couldn't' let the man know. It hurt so much. He wanted it to stop. He let out a bloodcurdling scream as he felt the Kyuubi press down on his back yet again with the same smothering hot object. He fought against him, tears pouring from his eyes. Then nothing, blissful nothing surrounded him.


Genma dropped his book mid-lecture when he heard the screaming start. The man burst through the doors of his classroom to see the familiar sight of four delinquent teenagers disappearing around a corner. Ignoring them for the moment Genma moves toward the sound of the screaming. A student was trapped inside the broken locker. Genma cursed. "Kid calm down, I'll get you out in a minute!" Genma called out as he moved up to the locker and tried to pry the locker free. It was stuck quick though. The student inside was banging like crazy, screaming what Genma could only guess was pure agony from the sounds of it. "Hey kid, are you hurt?" Genma shouted. Stupid question really, who would be screaming like that if they weren't. There was a huge crowd of students gathering around him and the locker, teachers were beginning to file out as well.

Genma cursed in panic as he searched around. "I need someone to call 911," Genma yelled out. If it were any other situation he would have been annoyed at how many students pulled out cell phones and started dialing. "Listen, I need you to calm down or else your gonna hurt yourself!" Genma shouted. The student didn't seem to hear him though. " Izumo! Find me a crow bar or something. Now!" Genma yelled, the other man immediately taking off. Genma grabbed ahold of the locker door once more, hands tugging fiercely at it. "God, listen kid please calm down! Helps on the way!" Genma called out but nothing seemed to help the kid. The other teachers were finally getting here.

The students were crowding around, some scared while others looked sickeningly excited about the turn of events. Yamato got in front of the students and glared at them. "Get back in your classrooms we're going to need all the room we can get when we get the student out!" Yamato yelled out, making a backing up motion with his hands. One of the students from Yamato's chemistry class, Shikamaru, looked worriedly at the scene. "What's going on?" Shikamaru asked as he tried to get a good glimpse past Yamato. Yamato growled in irritation, raising his voice louder than all the talking. "Listen up! There's a student trapped in one of the lockers and we think he's hurt! We need you to get back to class so that when the medical team gets up here they can do their job so move!" Yamato said in his scary authoritative voice. For the most part many students respected him and began to move back into the classrooms, but Shikamaru and a few others lagged behind. "But what if the person who owns the locker is among the crowd," screamed another student, Tenten, "You might be able to get him out easier if the person's locker number is given." Yamato growled in irritation, did they think that their teacher's were stupid? "It's the broken locker that no one has." Shikamaru answered for him when he finally got a glimpse.

Suddenly the screaming came to an abrupt stop, but surprisingly the banging continued. "Oh God. I think the kids having a seizure!" Genma screamed out as he redoubled his efforts. "Where's that goddamn Crow bar?!" Genma yelled out. Yamato and another teacher ran over and began yanking at the edges of the locker. Shikamaru and Tenten, who'd joined him a second before hand, looked on in horror as they heard the sounds of what was the students body jerking against the inside of the locker. Izumo finally showed up with a large group of teachers behind him, brought up by the screaming and Izumo's panicked explanations. Izumo made it through the small crowd of remaining students and teachers and dug the metal rod into the crevice of the locker, pulling with all his might. Kakashi and Gai, the strongest of the teachers, pushed through the crowd and gripped the crow bar in their hands. With a vicious tug from the three men the metal door finally began to give way. It bent forward before the bottom completely unhinged and broke off.

Genma pulled out the student and held them tightly against his chest as the small blonde shook and jerked violently, eyes rolling into the back of his head. As carefully as he could, making sure to keep the body tightly against him, he lowered him-self to the ground and sat through the convulsions. Wincing at how violently the boy's legs hit the floor. "Naruto!" Kakashi screamed out in shock as the silver haired man finally got a glimpse of the student. Kakashi stooped down beside Genma, panic stricken, as his student continued to convulse. Kakashi held done the blonde's legs, Genma giving a thankful nod. "Sir," The student who got through to 911 said, "they said that they'll be here within two minutes." Kakashi nodded at the girl gratefully. Naruto's body finally subsided from its convulsions, his limbs going slack in Genma's arms. "Damn it! I think he cracked his head open," Genma said as blood began to dye the back of the blonde's hair red.

"I don't understand, how did this happen?" Gai demanded in aggravation, fear brimming in his eyes. "I saw the brats that shoved him in the locker, they'll get what they deserve." Genma spat out. Kakashi had gone incredibly pale as he peered over at the now ripped open locker and then down at Naruto. "Naruto's a severe claustrophobic," Kakashi said shakily, "this is the worst thing that could possibly have happened to him." Genma and Gai stared at him, their own faces loosing color as they realized the severity of what took place. "Dear God," Gai whispered.


When Shikamaru heard Naruto's name shouted he felt his heart jump into his throat. He pushed forward, Tenten directly on his heel. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Naruto lying limply in Genma's arms, head tilted back slightly, thin arms dangling over the man's big strong ones. Blood dripped from the back of the blonde's head, falling to the floor and leaving a bloody stain on Genma's shirt. Naruto's face was incredibly pale, his features twisted in pain, and his breathing shallow with every few breaths hitched. Shikamaru could see bandages around his fingers, just as Chouji described it. There was something else though… It was more than likely due to the panic of the situation they were in, but nobody seemed to see what he was seeing. The horrible burns and deep scars along the back of Naruto's arms. That's when he heard Kakashi speak. "Naruto's a severe claustrophobic," Kakashi voice came out shakily, "this is the worst thing that could possibly have happened to him." Shikamaru felt sick to his stomach, Tenten gasped next to him. Their couch seemed to describe what was happening well; "Dear God." Shikamaru just stared as the sounds of Sirens began to scream in the air.