Welcome one and all to another story of mine! There are a few reasons why I am posting this instead of a chapter for my other works.

The main one is that I'm trying to loosen up my mind and get the creativity flowing so I can write the next chapters for some of my other stories. I'm afraid Team Minato is stuck in the future and Messrs. Black/Lupin are in the past for the moment until I figure out what to do with them. The other reason is that this idea wouldn't leave me alone (I have a lot of these little buggers in my mind, actually, though this one is being annoyingly persistent).

I've seen so many stories where Naruto has someone there for him at a young age, but almost none of them have Iruka being the one to do it. Why is that? I've seen Jiraiya have a shot at it (plausible), Kakashi (reasonable), Tsunade (acceptable), Ibiki/Anko/Both (seriously pushing it, but it's been done well before)…hell, even Akatsuki's had a shot at raising the little guy (…right). So why doesn't Iruka get to try his hand at it? Sure, he may seem like nothing special compared to them, but that's what makes this idea so interesting. Sometimes it's the underestimated ones that make all the difference (Naruto himself being a prime example of this). That's where this was born.

Anyway, that's enough rambling on my part. Please read on and enjoy.

"Yo." = speaking

'Yo.' = thinking

OoOo = scene change, time passage, or anything of that sort

Disclaimer: I in no way, shape, or form own Naruto. I only own this idea.

Chapter 1

Umino Iruka, age sixteen, tried his best to stifle a yawn despite the fact that no one was around to see it. He had made Chunnin no more than a week ago and was on his way home from his new job at the shinobi academy. He hadn't meant to stay there so long, but the workload as an instructor was still something he was unaccustomed to, and he hadn't quite figured out how to pace himself when grading papers. He hadn't even had a chance to speak with Mizuki as of late. It was worth it, however, as could finally relax while his economic situation seemed to stabilize.

When his parents died in that attack a little under five years ago, they had left him a good amount of money. It wasn't much, but with careful planning, it could last until he was old enough to start earning a decent living. Iruka, being naïve to the ways of the economic world, had not done so, and quickly found himself in a tough situation until the Third helped him along.

Needless to say, Iruka had quickly learned how to value even the smallest amount of money, and how to spend it wisely.

It was tough. The monthly allowances he was given were barely enough to get by, even after he started earning payment when he became a Genin. The village had been rebuilding, and with so many other orphaned children and homeless families to deal with, there hadn't been much to divide financially. Now, with Konoha reaching the last stages of recovery, and with his new status as a Chunnin and Academy Instructor, he had a little extra cash to spare.

He smiled tiredly to himself, content with things for the moment. Had he been a little more distracted, and had it not been so late at night, he would not have heard the near silent sniffle that came from the alley he'd just passed.

He paused.

In another life, he would have quickly written it off as his imagination and walked on, never knowing that if he'd taken the time to investigate, he would've found a small boy tucked between two trashcans. Here, he hesitated just long enough for another sniffle to reach his ears. He would never realize this, but that singular event was causing the very workings of Fate to rapidly rewrite itself into a brand new path, vastly different than how it had been before.

Curious, he went into the alley.

At first, he didn't see anything, making him wonder if he'd imagined the noise after all. That thought was quickly pushed from his mind as he noticed the form of a small, blond haired boy sitting on the floor, his head between his bent knees. Now somewhat concerned, Iruka knelt down in front of the child.

"Are you alright?" He asked gently.

The boy jerked and looked up, startling Iruka. He instantly recognized the boy for who he was, and subconsciously moved back. It wasn't that he hated the child, he'd gotten over that particular sentiment a few months back, but he would be lying if he said he felt anything towards him either. He was just Uzumaki Naruto, orphan and jailer for the Kyuubi. Nothing else.

Naruto's expression turned to one of wary sorrow as he hugged his knees closer to himself. Something tugged painfully at Iruka's heartstrings upon noticing how guarded and old Naruto's eyes were. No child should have eyes that look that way. Banishing any doubts he had of what he was about to do, he plunged headfirst into what he would later think back to as the best decision of his life.

"What are you doing out here this late?"

Naruto didn't respond, choosing instead to bite his lip and look away. Iruka withheld a sigh.

"It's okay," he soothed. "I won't hurt you. Promise."

"…That's what the other man said," Naruto replied in a hushed rasp.

Horrible realization flooded Iruka at the statement. How many times had Naruto been led to believe he could trust someone, only to be viciously betrayed later? His eyes softened.

"I-…I'm not that man. I know it's hard to trust someone…and I won't force you to do anything…but if you want, I can bring you to my place. Being out here at night isn't good for you."

Naruto stared at him for a while. It was a little unnerving, considering his eyes were deep…searching…but Iruka remained still, determined to prove himself to this poor child. Finally, after what felt like ages, Naruto nodded shyly. Iruka couldn't help the grin that bloomed at his acceptance.

"Come on, then. We're not that far."

He helped Naruto stand, taking note of the shabby, dirty state of his clothes and they began walking the rest of the way to Iruka's home.

"Why were you there, anyway?"

Naruto glumly looked at the window of one of the closed shops.

"…The lady told me to wait."

"Lady? What lady?"

"The one that takes care of the other kids…"

"Other kids? You mean an orphanage?"

Naruto nodded.

"Why did she tell you to wait there?"

He shrugged.

"She told me to wait," he repeated. "…She never came back and I dunno where home is."

'She abandoned him,' he thought angrily. 'She just left him there in the hopes of something happening to him…'

He inwardly shook his head. It wouldn't do to have Naruto think he was angry at him. Instead, he smiled as best he could.

"Well it worked out in the end, right? If she hadn't said that, we might not have met."

The small, but honest, smile that adorned Naruto's face at that was the first of many to come.


"You can sleep in here."

Iruka watched as Naruto explored the room with more than a little awe. He couldn't really blame him, seeing as he'd heard how crowded all the kids at the orphanage were. It probably felt like a palace to him. He'd only narrowly escaped the same fate because his parents had just finished paying off the house before they died, so he was allowed to remain here.

"It's so big," Naruto said, echoing his thoughts.

"You think?" He asked with a laugh. "I used to think so too, when I was younger. Now it's a little too small for me."

"Huh? Is this your room, Mister?"

"It used to be, but now I sleep in the other room. And I told you, my name's Umino Iruka."

"Right," he said sheepishly. "Sorry."

"It's okay. Anyway, go ahead and sleep. I'm sure you're tired."

As if to agree, Naruto yawned.

"Are you sure? Won't I ruin your bed?"

"Nothing a good wash can't handle, though we might have to get you some new clothes tomorrow."

Naruto's eyes widened.

"You would do that? Really?"

Iruka's eyes saddened once more at the reminder of what Naruto had to go through. He smiled slightly.

"Yea. I would."

He stumbled back when a yellow blur tackled him in a hug.

"Thank you so much, Umino-san!"

Iruka stood there a bit awkwardly, not really sure what to do. Finally, he patted Naruto on the back a few times before prying him off.

"Don't mention it. Now go on and get some sleep."

"Yes, sir!"

A small chuckle escaped him as Naruto pounced on the bed, burrowing under the covers with a sigh. Almost immediately, he was asleep. Iruka stared at him for a while, a faint feeling of…something…stirring deep within him. He wasn't sure what it was, and he wouldn't figure it out for a while, but for now, he closed the door with a small smile.

'Goodnight, Naruto-kun.'

OoOoOoOoOoOoOo Chapter End

Chapter 1 is done! What did you think? Was it good? It's a bit short, but as time goes on, the chapters will start getting longer. That said, there's a few things I want to point out.

1) Naruto will end up living with Iruka, it just hasn't been made official yet.

2) This takes off a little before Naruto enters the academy, meaning that Iruka will have plenty of time to influence him during his school years.

3) The other adults that played an important part in Naruto's life will still do so. I'm just giving Iruka his chance to shine as a parental figure raising Naruto from a young age.

4) The pairing will be Naruto/Hinata. There is no chance of me changing this.

I apologize to all you Naru/Saku shippers, but I am a steadfast Naru/Hina fan. In my eyes, Sakura hasn't done nearly enough to redeem herself for both the way she treated Naruto in the past and with her more recent actions in the manga. I mean, seriously? The whole telling Naruto she loved him thing might've been fine if she really meant it, but it's obvious she still cares for Sasuke. Not only was she being completely dishonest with herself, but Naruto genuinely cares for her, and that's just an awful thing to say to him. Some of you might be saying that she did it because she didn't want him to get hurt, but is that really a good reason? I'm not sure about you, but playing with someone's feelings like that is not cool. At all. (His reaction to this gives me hope that Naru/Hina will be canon)

This isn't to say that I will be Sakura-bashing. As I've already established in my other Naruto story, I greatly dislike it when authors bash characters. I don't hate Sakura, she's actually pretty all right after the time-skip, I just can't see her paired with Naruto. The reason I'm not pairing Naruto up with anyone else is more a combination of "Naruto doesn't really talk to them" and "I still like Hinata better."

Sorry, got off on a tangent there.

I'm pretty much set on the other pairings, though there are a few that are giving me trouble. I'll be nice and let you guys influence me on these. Here are your choices:

Sakura- Saku/Sasu, Saku/Lee, or Saku/Sai.

Sasuke- Sasu/Saku or Sasu/Karin

Ino- Ino/Chouji, or Ino/Sai

Chouji- Chouji/Ino or Chouji/OC

Lee- Lee/Saku or Lee/OC

Keep in mind that this story will focus on Naruto, therefore all other pairings will play a minor part compared to the relationship between Naruto and Hinata. I'm sure you can guess some of them already from their absence on this list. As much as I don't like OCs in stories, there's a disheartening lack of kunoichi in Naruto, and I don't want some perfectly decent guys to stay bachelors. Before you suggest it, I don't do yaoi or yuri. I don't have anything against homosexuals, but even thinking of writing something like that is just incredibly awkward for me, so I doubt I could pull one of those pairings off.

Let's see…I think that's about it. Please let me know what you thought of this first chapter. I hope you enjoyed it. Please take care. Until next time!