Seal of Healing, Binding Seal

Note: I'm not sure how they mark time, dates, years, etc. in the world of Naruto. For simplicity I'm declaring Naruto's birthday October 10, 1980.

Prologue – Playing Ninjas

October 15, 1984

Red and brown leaves littered the streets and yards of Konoha like snow drifts, that shifted here and there with the wind. Sloughing through the leaves side by side, a pair of very different boys played the only real game they knew, ninjas. Tan and blond, the blue-eyed boy grinned, kicking leaves out and making crude jutsu hand-signs imitating his father. His friend, pale and dark haired, smiled thinly waiting for Naruto to finish his display, before making his own leaf attack.

"Good one," Naruto said. Both boys picked out a pile of leaves and dove in, pretending to dodge enemy attacks.

When they tired of tunneling through the leaves and using them for cover, Sasuke proposed the next game. He assembled a mound of leaves near a fence and climbed to the top. With a high pitched battle cry he dove off into the pile making hand signs the whole way down.

"Awesome!" Naruto cheered. He immediately started building his own mound of leaves near his favorite climbing tree. Once he deemed the pile sufficiently fluffed to break his fall, Naruto started climbing, but he didn't stop at the height of the fence. There were plenty of good branches within reach and he wanted to make a more dramatic leap than Sasuke. His friend was hard to impress. "Are you watching?" Naruto gave Sasuke two thumbs up.

Sasuke nodded, his mouth slightly open in awe of the height Naruto intended to jump from. The thought passed through his mind that maybe Naruto shouldn't jump from quite so high, but before he could consider voicing such cowardly concerns, Naruto was airborne. A loud cracking sound that didn't remind him of crinkled leaves at all followed his friend's impact then Naruto screamed. Sasuke rushed to his side and scrounged through the leaves finding some much brighter red ones than before, red and wet.

He had never seen Naruto look so pale or scared. His leg bent at an odd angle and Sasuke could see bone pushing out of his skin. "Is it broken?" Sasuke asked, not completely believing what he saw. "I think it's broken." He knew he should run for help, but he froze there, staring at the blood flowing around stark white bone, his friend now only half-conscious from the shock.

"Your friend is hurt. He needs help. Would you like me to help him?"

Sasuke turned toward the voice, glad to have anyone's assistance. "I need to get his mom," Sasuke said. He was about to ask the newcomer to stay with Naruto but his eyes narrowed at his first good look at the stranger. The woman who stood just on the other side of the fence had a bright white pattern branded over her neck and half her face, the mark of a sealed healer. His father warned him about wandering healers and their dangerous seals. Only accept their help if the other option is death.

"Don't touch him," Sasuke commanded. With a grimace he raced toward the house, his paralysis broken by the healer's intervention.

"Kushina-sama!" Sasuke called, racing toward Naruto's house. "Naruto's hurt!"

The healer sighed and scaled the small fence. She pushed her black hair behind her ears and stroked the suffering blonde's forehead. His friend had rejected her help, but it didn't mean she couldn't offer that help to the boy experiencing the injury. Healing the sick and injured was her job. "That's a bad break, young man. Would you like me to fix it up for you?" she asked.

The boy squinted up at her; a pained smile curved his lips. "I'm not allowed to talk to strangers," he said, "and my mom can heal anything, no problem."

"No problem, eh?" the woman said. She stared down into the small child's bright blue eyes and felt a twinge in her seal, a twinge of recognition. "I know you aren't supposed to talk to strangers, but if we introduce ourselves, we won't be strangers anymore. My name is Sumire. What's yours?"

The boy continued to smile, even as his face went pale and his lips tinged blue from blood loss. "I'm Naruto, Namikaze Naruto."

"Are you sure I can't heal you, young man? It is a very bad break. If someone doesn't intervene soon, you could die."

"He won't be dying." Red hair tied back in a bun, Kushina pushed past the woman crouched over her son. A mother bear, ready to do anything for her injured cub, she glared at the interloper even as she started emergency healing jutsus. "I suggest you remove yourself from this property. You aren't welcome here."

"Of course," Sumire said. "It's my duty to offer help. I apologize for trespassing." Sighing, she leapt back over the fence, but rather than going on her way, she stayed close to make sure the mother would really be able to stabilize the situation. Sumire had a feeling about the tough blonde. Letting him die needlessly would be wasteful.

"All right baby, this is going to hurt, but I have to get you to the hospital. Are you ready?" Kushina asked. Naruto nodded quickly. "That's my brave boy."

Sumire watched the woman sprint away with the speed of a trained shinobi. Little Naruto would live, she could tell before the woman ever took off running. "You will bear watching cub."

The primary medical entity in a military village, the Konoha hospital was equipped to handle almost anything, except maybe a worried Hokage with an injured toddler. "Is he okay? Just tell me exactly what happened. Is he okay?"

The nurse confronted with her Hokage's questions, found herself blushing and too flustered to explain that she wasn't even working emergencies today and had no idea what his son had managed to skin, burn, scrape, or sprain today. Naruto was a frequent visitor. Most of the hospital staff called the Namikaze heir some combination of fearless, reckless, and under-supervised with the stunts he inevitably pulled. If it wasn't trying to befriend a stray dog that thought he looked like dinner or stealing his dad's kunai or attempting to scale his house, it was some other dangerous dodgy activity. "Sir, I'm working poultices today. Try the nurses' station," she stammered out.

"Right," Minato said. He started throwing the same questions at the ladies grouped behind a counter. "Is he okay?" he asked for the fifth time.

One of the older nurses smiled. "Naruto's going to be fine. He fell out of a tree and fractured his leg. He is working on my nurses, trying to get a bit of ice cream out of this adventure."

Another nurse smiled. "I heard he jumped out of the tree. His friend Sasuke dared him or challenged him or some other little boy nonsense."

Relief warred with exasperation on Minato's face. "What room?"

"Tsunade set him up in room, 309."

Minato didn't need further directions. He headed upstairs and down a white disinfectant smelling hallway. With his right leg encased in a cast and elevated with a sling, his unabashed son enthusiastically devoured a bowl of chocolate ice cream. He didn't seem distressed or to be in any pain. Minato sighed and entered with a stern frown. "Tell me that you didn't jump out of a tree, Naruto. You're four. You know better. Did falling off the roof teach you nothing?"

Naruto had the good sense to look ashamed and set his treat aside. "It wasn't like with the roof. We had piles of leaves to break the fall. Sasuke jumped first and he was fine!"

"If Sasuke jumped off a bridge, would you jump off one too?" Minato began and then grimaced, "Don't bother answering that. I think I already know."

"Sasuke wouldn't jump off a bridge unless he had a safe landing already planned out," Naruto answered stubbornly.

"Safe? Like the pile of leaves today?" Minato asked.

Naruto frowned. "I might have climbed a little too high. It was fine from the top of the fence."

"Your mother and I want to let you discover your limits, but if you keep going at this rate, you're going to break your neck before you figure out that you can't fly and you aren't going to bounce when you hit the ground."

"I know I'm not going to bounce," Naruto muttered under his breath, "but I bet I could fly if I knew the right jutsu."

"You found our little daredevil I see." Kushina joined Minato at Naruto's bedside. She laced her arm into her husband's and matched his frown. "They were playing in the leaves in the back yard, perfectly harmlessly while Mikoto and I had a cup of tea. Somehow they always manage to turn harmless into daring. I should never have left them alone."

"If our little daredevil wants to start at the academy in a year with his best friend, he needs to be able to play in the backyard for an afternoon without grave injury."

Kushina's frown deepened. She wasn't completely onboard with starting Naruto a year early at the academy anyway. His ability to find danger in the most mundane activities had not encouraged her on the subject. "There isn't anything wrong with waiting until he's six. Almost everyone waits until they're six. He'll be more mature then."

"I'm starting with Sasuke!" Naruto shouted. "I'm not waiting until I'm six!"

"We'll see if you can act mature enough to start next year. We'll see how careful you can be between now and then," Minato said with a smirk. "What do you say, you stay out of the hospital for the next six months and we'll seriously consider letting you start with Sasuke next year."

Naruto nodded gravely. "I'll be very careful."

Sitting on the back porch with his casted leg propped up, Naruto tried to read the book his mother had left him, he just couldn't make himself focus on it. Instead he watched the team of Genin busy clearing the leaves out of the backyard. Two of the young ninja gathered piles together, while their third member incinerated them with a safe, small fire jutsu. The roasting smell made Naruto's stomach rumble with thoughts of marshmallows and campfires. When the Genin team finished they stopped by the porch and asked Naruto to sign their mission scroll. Feeling important, Naruto obliged them with a laboriously drawn signature. "Thanks guys!"

"Any time, honorable son," one Genin said. The three man group raced to jump over the fence and rejoin their Jounin sensei. Naruto imagined himself on a squad with Sasuke and someone else cool like maybe Kiba. They'd be tall and have Hitai-ates and a cool sensei, maybe a Sannin. They'd have way cooler missions than clearing leaves of course. Naruto's smile widened as he envisioned himself slaying giant demon monsters.

His fantasy was interrupted by a new visitor at the fence. She wore simple gray traveling clothes and a pair of worn brown boots. Her black hair fell just past her shoulders. Chestnut brown eyes met his with a smile. Naruto stared at her, barely noticing all the small details of her appearance, instead focusing on the pattern carved in her neck and face. He liked clan markings and tattoos. He sometimes imagined himself with Akimichi swirls or Inuzuka red stripes on his cheeks.

The woman's face marking was pretty cool too, Naruto decided. He waved to her, wordlessly inviting her into his yard, but she shook her head, instead leaning on the fence. "You seem to be feeling much better," she said. "Nice cast."

Naruto frowned at his leg. "I can't do much until it comes off, and Sasuke can't visit. He's grounded."

The woman nodded and took a step back. Before she could wave and make her exit, Naruto started yammering questions at her.

"I don't remember your name from yesterday; what was it? Are you in a ninja clan? I like your clan markings. My dad says I can't have a face tattoo. Do you think I would look great with a face tattoo? It would make me look scary. Ninja need to scare their enemies."

"My name is Sumire, Naruto, and these are not clan markings. I'm a healer. Remember, I offered to heal your leg." She smiled mischievously. "And I think you'd look smashing with some clan tattoos, if you can convince your father that it's wise."

"He thinks we're too flashy with our hair and eyes as it is," Naruto admitted and sighed. "He'll never decide it's a good idea."

"Good luck, kid," Sumire said and with a wave she was walking again. The buzz in her face seal had intensified overnight and she knew it was time to move on, to roam the field. Tingling seals aside, her proximity to the Hokage's son's accident would have everyone on edge. The general feeling that her kind were ill omens was natural, when you considered that they were drawn to death and disasters.

She could feel the gaze of the villagers following her steady trek for the main gates. Usually the menace towards her lacked the palpable venom she felt today. Nothing like a dramatic accident to a beloved leader's child to turn the populace antagonistic, Sumire thought with a resigned sigh.

She couldn't see where he came from or sense any hint that he was coming, but a familiar Jounin appeared at her side, easily matching her steady pace. His silver hair spiked dramatically and a mask covered his lower face. "Are you heading out then, Sumire? Any idea where the road is going to lead you today?"

"I'm sure there is someone who needs my help out there, and, Kakashi, I don't need an escort out of the village." She grinned. "But I appreciate the thought."

A Chuunin arrived more obviously and noisily from a side street and flanked her other side, his grin more visible without a mask. He linked his arm with the healer's familiarly. "Leaving us again. Off to save more deserving, romantic, wounded, tragically handsome young ninjas from certain untimely deaths."

"Yes," she said simply. She stopped to sign out with the gate guard and disengaged from her escort. "Thanks."

Kakashi waved in a nonchalant manner, while Obito waved more vigorously. Whatever anyone else felt about the nomadic healers, Sumire would never come to harm in Konoha when team seven was around. Obito would have died a painful, meaningless death by crushing before finishing puberty if that particular healer hadn't wandered past when she had almost a decade ago.

"Eager for bad luck, Uchiha?" one of the gate Chuunins asked. "I know she saved your life, but the gratitude is misplaced. You realize her proximity is probably the reason you were fatally wounded and needed saving."

Obito turned to Kakashi and frowned. "Did you hear something? I could have sworn I heard a superstitious idiot badmouthing a friend of mine."

"That would be foolish," Kakashi responded. "They'd have to know we wouldn't like that."

The two of them turned away, mentally adding the rude Chuunin to their list of ninjas to be watched and punished quietly at a later date for crimes against themselves or friends of theirs.

Author's Note – When I say AU I mean really odd and different. I'm a bit concerned that Minato and Kushina come across as negligent parents, but this is a shinobi village and kids are expected to start learning to be independent young or die harshly at the age of twelve when they become Genin. I'm open to comments and criticism on the topic. Also, if there was any doubt, Sasuke's mistake mentioned in the summary did not happen in the prologue though the accident is meant to foreshadow.

There will be no Madara Uchiha and no Akatsuki. There will probably be some Orochimaru. The primary antagonist/conflict of the plot centers from the nomadic healers introduced in the prologue.