Title: Children

Author: AppleL0V3R

Beta-reader: SymphoniaFreak

Fandom: Naruto

Characters: Team 7: Uchiha Sasuke, Uzumaki Naruto, and Haruno Sakura

Other Characters: Uchiha Itachi, Uchiha Fugaku, Uchiha Mikoto, Haruno Kako (OC)

Theme: 50 Muses LJ challenge (#27 – Friends)

Summary: When the four of them find the three children, they really don't know what to think other than the fact that they were definitely in for one hell of a ride.

Word Count: 5,575

Rating: T

Type: One-shot – Complete

Genre: Pre-canon (Child!Team 7, pre-massacre), Humor, Friendship, Family

Disclaimer: If you've heard of it before, then it's obviously not mine.

Started: February 23, 2013

Completed: January 9, 2014

Note: This collection of one-shots is dedicated to the friendship and dynamics of Team Seven, not the relationship between any mentioned pairings. So if there are pairings they will not be the focus. Also, fair warning, I fluidly switch between the three of them without any clear breaks, but it's also pretty obvious when I change from Naruto to Sakura to Sasuke and any combination thereof.

Also, I realize the characters might come off a little too intelligent for five year olds, but Sakura, Sasuke, and Naruto in canon are very intelligent people even at the young age of twelve, so I think that's both learned and innate. And given the backgrounds (both established and the liberties I'm taken) it would seem reasonable that they can think as developed as they can without losing a childish mentality. Speaking of character differences, I'm well aware that Sasuke pre-massacre was a happy child, but I figure that while already in a sullen mood to begin with, Sasuke wouldn't adapt very well to being out of his element in unwelcome circumstances complied with unexpected turn of events, thus my reasoning for why Sasuke is acting not so happy-go-lucky or kind as he is portrayed canonically.

Lastly, I apologize for taking almost literally a year to finish this. If it weren't for a review on my Snuggle Buddy, Cuddle Honey one-shot, I probably would have taken much longer. Hopefully the next one will only take half the time at most to get posted (or you know, a couple of weeks).

Requested by: Anime Freak456

Last Edited on: January 29, 2014

It was a chance meeting for the three children; it was a mere coincidence that they were all in the same place at the same time. But it wasn't happenstance that they took notice of each other.

At the tender age of five, each had varying levels of experience in independence. Sakura was the only child of a single mother who always seemed to be working; Sasuke continuously found himself in his precious older brother's shadow and forced to fend for himself; Naruto didn't even know who his parents were and only knew Iruka-sensei and the Old Man as parental figures when they had time to do more than check in on him. It also happened that the park near the academy was a favorite place of all three to play at when they could, and on that particular day they were all there at the same time.

Naruto had grown bored of the small one-bedroom apartment that he'd been allotted long before his memories began, and had decided to venture toward the park in search of something to do. And with any luck, he hoped he'd find someone willing to play with him as well; but the occasions such a thing happened were so few and far between that he didn't expect it. Still, he was more than capable of simply playing on the swings or slides, or even just the sandbox by himself if he had to. Anything to get rid of the boredom.

Sasuke found himself at the playground, not because he wanted to go, but because there was no one at home who could keep an eye on him. Since he was too young to stay home alone, and his parents were busy and his aniki away, he was left to occupy himself in a public setting with the instructions to stay there until someone came by to pick him up. This had happened enough times already that he was more put out than frightened by the prospect of being on his own, surrounded by a bunch of civilian children.

Sakura was in a situation halfway between the two boys. Her mother was going to be working until after dark, so the rosette found herself restless and needing an activity to busy herself with. Normally that would include reading one of her father's large books or trying to take care of the garden that her mother had started for her. But today, neither prospect seemed especially appealing, which left her to figure out what did. And the local park seemed to fill that quite nicely.

With all three at the park, it was a series of events that led the three to notice and interact with each other. There had been other children at the park along with a couple parents. Naruto had been careful not to approach anyone he'd played with previously, as they had a painful pattern of refusing to play with him a second time. And to his delight there were a handful of new faces present. Without hesitation, he made a beeline for one of them, a small boy playing with a shovel and bucket in the sandbox, and the blonde's quick mind had already thought of a way to introduce himself.

His quick approach was abruptly halted when a child he did know turned to him and blinked knowing eyes just before calling to the boy Naruto was about to introduce himself to. He felt his heart sputter and drop as he watched the unknown boy look to who had called him and then to the blonde and back again; choice clearly already made, the boy got up and jogged towards the other kid. The blue-eyed boy stood there for just a moment longer before he forced himself to smile and shake it off. It happened all the time, he should be used to it; he should just suck it up and get over it. As he'd observed before, there were other children here that he hadn't met yet. Surely not all of them had met someone who had played with him before. With determination once more gripping his small chest, he turned toward the small dark-haired boy inspecting the swing set as if it would suddenly come alive and attack him. The young Uzumaki knew a great way to approach the odd boy, and he did so with a smile.

The blonde approached cautiously, not willing to risk the incident just moments ago again. When he was within arm's reach of the boy whose wary black eyes stayed on the swings even though he was right next to an empty seat, he asked tentatively, "Do you want to play?"

The dark-haired boy whipped around so fast the blonde thought he might get whiplash. Dark eyes looked at him with the same suspicion that he'd observed the swing set with. Then he pursed his lips and looked away, back to the swings. "Why would I want to play with a civilian?"

Hurt surfaced sharp and quick, but hope remained. The other kid hadn't said 'fox' or 'demon' or any of the other insults that were directed towards him. And though he didn't know what a 'civilian' was, surely it was better than all the others, and maybe if he tried, the black-eyed boy would change his mind. Curiosity made him want to ask what a civilian was, but pride and the possibility of a playmate, even if just for the day, appealed far too much for him to do so. "Why don't you just get on the swing?"

Again those eyes were locked on him, this time less wary and more with bolstered anger. "Because." Like that was more than reason enough.

Street smarts had taught little Naruto to read between the lines with that particular response. When adults said 'because' and nothing else it meant one of two things; they didn't know or they didn't want to tell him. And from the way the boy had been watching the swing set told the blonde that it probably meant he didn't know how to swing. Blue eyes lit up like light bulbs upon seeing the opening. Maybe if he showed the other how to swing, they could play together and his civilian or whatever status wouldn't matter anymore.

"I can show you how." He offered cautiously, and just to be safe he added hastily, "If you want."

The boy scowled back at him. "I know how, I just don't have Aniki with me to do it."

It wasn't the 'aniki' bit that had Naruto furrowing his small brow, it wasn't even the condescending tone the dark-haired boy was using; it was the idea that swinging on a swing set required two people. The tan-skinned boy had never needed another person to swing, not even to learn how. After he'd figured out the trick through trial and error, admittedly a skill he'd learned for the sole purpose of gaining friends which had failed just like everything else, he had been able to do so all on his own.

Despite his confusion, he didn't want to frown at the other child, because the other boy was still talking to him, and that was more than he could say for the vast majority of the park's inhabitants. Instead he tried to make this new, albeit befuddling, piece of information work. He nodded slowly and tried again to make playing with the grumpy five-year-old possible. "Then…I'll do what your 'aniki' does?" It came out more like a question than he'd originally intended, but halfway through the other boy's scowl had become fierce and a touch indignant.

"You can't replace my aniki." The boy snapped, sharp enough that the whisker-marked boy didn't even hear the undertones of want and petulance.

In fact, all he could think was that the other toddler was being unnecessarily mean, just like all the others but in a slightly different way. Naruto had thought that there was only one way to be mean; apparently there was more than one and for some reason this one hurt even more. This one seemed almost even more personal despite the fact that the words weren't anywhere near as cruel as the ones he was used to hearing.

But rather than saying anything or detangling himself from the situation, the Uzumaki reacted without thinking and pushed the other boy with a 'you don't have to be mean' lost somewhere in what quickly turned into a scuffle between the two.

Little Sakura happened to have finally decided to take a break from learning the words in the large tome she'd taken with her on the way to the park at that particular moment. It was one of her favorites not because it was hard, but because it was a gift and she had learned a long time ago not to take such things for granted. That didn't, however, mean she didn't need small breaks to let herself process and understand the new knowledge she was stuffing her brain with, not to mention there were more than a couple dozen words she didn't understand every time she read a new passage. So she'd dog-eared her page and shifted the heavy copulation of papers and hardbound leather to the space on the bench beside her. Green eyes blinking to take in the world around her, assuming it would have changed since she'd settled on the empty park bench nearly an hour before.

Originally her eyes had begun to automatically track their way to the sky, but not first without looking at the playground in front of her. She consequently zeroed straight on to the struggling boys and she was on small feet before she was even thinking it through. Her book and peace were forgotten as she found herself hurrying over to the other two children in an instinctual bid to stop the scuffle.

"Hey!" It was an ongoing joke of her mother's that despite her small, even for her age, stature she was a loud little thing. And while she normally whined at the joke, she was glad for having a good set of lungs on her because of situations like this. Both boys jumped away from each other and immediately looked to her in complete surprise. Though the black-haired boy's expression quickly morphed to one of disgruntlement and a hint of embarrassment—which only made him puff up so as to hide—the other child stayed startled looking for a few moments longer, clearly still absorbing the sudden change in the situation. However once it did change, it became confused and unsure as if he didn't know what to expect from her next, but was assuming the worst and trying to be subtle about preparing to run at a moment's notice.

Neither was a reaction that she had expected and so she too idled for a moment while gaining her bearings. But she quickly remembered that the two had been fighting, which mama always said was a bad thing because violence wasn't the answer, and she had intervened because one of them could have gotten hurt. "You shouldn't fight." She told them firmly, intent on getting the two boys to make nice or say sorry or simply leave each other alone.

The blonde hung his head, not entirely apologetic in his mumbled sorry, but also clearly not wanting any further damage to be done. With such a promising reaction, she turned to the dark haired boy, hoping to find him similarly repentant. Except, she should have guessed by his earlier immediate reaction, that anything approaching an apology was asking a bit much of him. His expression half rebellious and half petulant, he gave a soft 'humpf' and turned his nose up at her in an almost haughty manner, snapping, "It's none of your business."

She flinched her wide green eyes at the abrasive attitude, and her normally sweet and innocent disposition was inclined to be hurt over it. But the small part of her that Ino had incited within her wanted to be offended and in turn smack some sense into the rude little boy. As it turned out she didn't have to worry about how the other perceived her reaction because the blonde boy was already jumping to his feet and casting a haphazard arm in the raven-haired boy's direction, pointing at his face in some sort of offensive pose. It would have been hilarious if they were older, but right then it was only dumbfounding.

"Don't be mean to her, stupid head!" He declared with as much bravado as he could manage and puffed up his scrawny body as much as it allowed.

Little Sakura honestly didn't know whether to be flattered or dumbfounded at having the scruffy boy defending her, but that was immediately over ridden by her urge to have everyone happy. She reached out and cuffed the blonde boy, "No name calling, it makes people petty." That's what her mama always said anyway, and her mama was always right about these kinds of proprieties. No name calling, cursing or being impolite. And then she realized that she may have just perpetuated more confusion and tension between the three of them and her shoulders slumped. Turning fully to the boy she'd just chided, she gave him a small smile "But thank you for defending me." Then she turned back to the other boy, who was so stunned by how this whole ordeal was playing out that he was still on the ground. "We don't have to be friends, but you don't have to be mean either."

Neither boy seemed to know how to react to her respective reactions to them, so once more the three five-year-olds were at a standstill.

The blond, as had become a pattern now, was the first to react, his blue eyes staring into hers in a wide-eyed gaze as he slowly, tentatively, took a step towards her. "You…you would want to be…friends?" He couldn't believe his luck. Part of him whispered that he was foolish to hope, but the rest of him was so desperate for a friend, so willing to believe that maybe, just maybe, she wanted to that he refused to not take the chance. He'd been told yes before by other children, only to be abandoned for others who had made a game of shunning and picking on him, but he told himself that this was different. She'd caught him fighting with the other boy and she was still offering – that was offered right? She proposed friendship, even if she hadn't been talking directly to him.

Green eyes turned back to him, looking befuddled and bewildered. She took a moment, then nodded slowly, offering a simple "everyone needs friends" as if it were a good enough explanation. And Naturo accepted it full heartedly because for the first time in what seemed ages, he'd gotten a genuine seeming yes. As that sunk in, he began to grin, overwhelmed with the idea that he'd made a friend. And she looked sweet too; he wondered immediately if she liked ramen, maybe she'd eat lunch with him.

Meanwhile, Sasuke, still in the same position he'd been since the little tussle between he and the blonde brat had been broken up by the pink-haired civilian, simply stared. Feeling a mash of different emotions about everything that had just taken place in the span of the last five minutes, he couldn't bring himself to even consider moving his limbs. This, he thought, was exactly, why he didn't come to public playgrounds without other shinobi children to play with. But for as mulish and stubborn as he was wont to being, he couldn't help the potential shinobi in him from recognizing a puzzle when he saw one. And Ka-chan always said a puzzle was like a challenge, encountered or given to be solved, to be won. Even Aniki was inquisitive and curious, always seeking to understand and know; it was why the older of the two Uchiha boys was always so far ahead of everyone else.

And Aniki would be able to solve this puzzle, win this challenge. And if his prized elder brother could, then he had to too, so he could be just like – if not greater – than his chunnin sibling.

How, he asked himself, would Aniki solve this particularly vexing challenge? The Uchiha Clan Heir was generally too busy nowadays to actually teach him anything one on one anymore, despite all the promises of 'next time' he'd been given, but Sasuke did remember his brother telling him once upon a time to understand all the pieces of the puzzle first. So he forced himself to watch first the blonde haired boy more diligently and form an opinion about the other boy's personality and position in the situation.

The blonde had approached him tentatively, the dark-eyed boy remembered, because his voice had been shaking. But he'd been so irritated and sulky about being left in the park in the first place that the only three people who could have successfully approached him were his immediate family members. So when he had snapped at the hesitant boy, the other had been quick to go on defense but refused to actually give up. Sasuke scowled at that thought, why hadn't the other given up? Anyone else would have scrambled away because of his waspish tone.

With that thought firmly in mind, he realized it was both the other boy's determination to play with him and his staunch anger at being stuck in a civilian play place that had led to the rough struggle the two had ended up in. And he'd been unwilling to stop because he'd never been in a fight before; no one would dare treat an Uchiha boy that way, especially one of Oto-sama's children. And yet despite his training and grooming, the blonde little scraper had managed to hold his own like fighting an Uchiha was no big deal. Matching him blow-for-blow and rolling them over just as many times as Sasuke had; in fact, if he could ever admit it to himself, the blonde had rolled them over more than Sasuke had.

And then the little pink-haired girl had come out of nowhere and knocked them both apart, declaring that they shouldn't fight. She'd sounded firm, and shock had stilled him for long enough not to notice her own inexperience with the situation. But at every turn, she'd tried to be authoritative and hesitant, like she was copying someone she'd seen before and trying to adapt it to the situation. But she used big words like his aniki did and even understood the wisdom she tried to impart, like any competent adult he'd ever known.

For a moment, he wondered if he should entertain the possibility that civilian children could be equal to clan children. The idea went against everything he'd been taught to date by the clan, and so he wasn't quick to accept something he knew his elders would find ludicrous. Yet he couldn't reject the clear evidence he saw before him; both children displayed a capacity for intelligence and a potential that could be pursued.

Would his aniki scoff at the two children before him? Would he think Sasuke's thought ridiculous? What if he didn't?

Dark eyes flickered between the two who had continued to converse in hesitant sentences as they seemed to test the waters of friendship between them, the blonde much more cautious than the pixie girl's own gentled curiosity. Sasuke still didn't understand the other boy's timidness, but it seemed to rule what he said and how close he got to either of them even when he was clearly eager for attention. Like a puppy, the raven-haired boy thought, starved for attention but not enough courage to seek it. The Uchiha in him wanted to laugh and call him pathetic; the inquisitive part of him wanted to know where it stemmed from. In the end he decided it wasn't his problem so he didn't care. Apathy was an Uchiha heir's best friend after all.

He also didn't understand the green-eyed girl's effort to rein her own curiosity in, gentling her responses. He blinked once between the two and like a light bulb going off in his bright mind, he realized why. She saw the skittishness as well and she was trying not to frighten the boy. At the same time, she seemed to be choosing words carefully so as not to promise anything she was hesitant to deliver on. She was being considerate of his feelings and trying to react appropriately to the boy who seemed rough around the edges.

They weren't on par with Uchiha, but maybe, just maybe they had their own merits. He nodded decisively to himself; that would simply have to be the best explanation he could muster for now. With that thought in mind, he looked about him and found the swingset still empty, and the urge he'd had to swing made its way back to the fore of his priorities. But he kept looking around, surveying his surroundings just in case Aniki had returned while he'd been preoccupied, and noticed that the bench the pink-haired girl had been at prior to the blonde approaching him had been overtaken by older children who were waving around a book. He squinted at the cover and recognized the book as identical to one in his father's study.

He frowned, perplexed. Obviously it was not Oto-sama's book, but that meant it belonged to the girl who was obliviously chattering, more animatedly now, with the blonde. Surely any book his father deemed worthy to own shouldn't be treated in such a way, no matter if it had been left on a bench by a pink-haired girl.

So, ignoring the swings and the two children, he made his way over to the bench, intent on retrieving the book.

Without any hesitation, Sasuke walked right up to the group and waited for them to notice him, correctly guessing that it wouldn't take long at all. The biggest one in the group, the boy holding the book, noticed him and pinned the five-year-old with a condescending look that seemed to express the sentiment, 'who do you think you are barging in on my group?' But the raven-haired boy remained completely unperturbed by the older boy; after all, his aniki would have been wholly unfazed by much bigger and more confident opposition. "That's my friend's book," he nodded to said object. "I'd like it back."

Obviously that wasn't what the older kid had expected because for a moment all he could do was blink in utter confusion at the young Uchiha, but the latter stayed focused and adamant about his demand. When it took longer than he had the patience for, Sasuke thrust his hand out and indicated for the book to be handed over. However, the gesture wasn't received well, and the boy sneered, yanking the leather book away. "Sorry, I don't take orders from some snot-nosed kid."

Sasuke scowled, half tempted to snap that the other kid should look in the mirror, but didn't think it would help his case. So rather than get distracted by the insult—what did some civilian child know anyway?—he decided to stick to the direct approach. "I don't care what you do, I just want the book. I don't see how that's a problem."

Starting to turn an interesting shade of red in the face, the older boy tried covertly glancing around his group. None of the other boys creating the almost completely circle around the kid seemed to know what they were supposed to be doing because they did nothing but stare at Sasuke and the eldest kid in the group. Not that the five-year-old cared. Being raised into the Uchiha clan had taught him apathy to others' thoughts and actions when they didn't involve him and indifference when dealing with nearly any kind of situation he found himself in. This was no exception, so he didn't care what the ring of children did or didn't do so long as he got the book and they didn't give him too much trouble. As far as his young mind was concerned, it really wasn't that hard a concept to grasp.

With that thought in mind, he refocused on the larger kid in front of him who currently seemed to be working himself into a frenzy about something or other. "Look, if you give me the book right now, I'll walk away and you'll never have to even think about me again." That seemed an almost Aniki sort of thing to say, and any path his brother took always turned out exactly how he wanted it to. Though, it didn't have quite the effect Sasuke had thought it would. In fact, it seemed to have the exact opposite effect.

With an angry shout, the older boy lunged at Sasuke, who was momentarily stunned at the unforeseen reaction and didn't move out of the way in time. Due to the momentum of his attacker, the raven-haired boy's knees buckled, and he collapsed backwards under the heavier kid. His breath was knocked out of him in a painful whoosh that left him grappling with exactly what had just happened and what state his body was now in from the rough treatment. With a disgruntled sound of his own, Sasuke kicked at the weight atop him solely in an effort to get the guy off of him as quickly as possible, but the other child hung on like a barnacle and kept trying to pin all of the Uchiha's limbs unsuccessfully. After a few more moments of struggling with neither boy getting anywhere, suddenly the child above him was tackled to the ground at Sasuke's side.

Black eyes blinked once in confusion as he once more floundered to figure out what was going on. A set of small hands grabbed at one of his arms and tugged upward once, then twice before Sasuke realized they belonged to Sakura and she was attempting to pull him to his feet. When she tugged a third time, he went with the motion and climbed to his feet. But rather than turn to the little girl, he immediately looked for his attacker and what had caused him to go crashing to the ground. When he finally located the other boy, he was flat on his back sporting wide eyes, a burgeoning bruise on his arm where he'd probably hit the ground and was completely motionless. And right in front of him, was the blonde getting to his feet and grinning triumphantly.

It took the Uchiha a moment to gain his bearings, but after he did, he remembered the book and decided that was more important than dealing with the idea that the civilian ruffian had saved him, had intentionally helped him. Casting his gaze about, Sasuke spotted the heavy tome right where the older kid had been standing and surmised it must have been dropped when the boy lunged. Absently, he noted that the kid's posse was nowhere to be seen and then shrugged it off as it seemed unimportant anyway. He trotted over and squatted down to grasp the book with both hands to heft it up. Upon turning around, he found himself faced with two pairs of eyes, one blue and the other green, and the large kid from moments ago was also no longer in sight.

"What?" The dark-eyed boy grumbled, clearly not understanding why he was suddenly the center of attention.

But Sakura, who had been about to scold Naruto for picking a second fight, promptly forgot all about it when she noticed her favorite book in the other boy's hands. Her eyes widened and she gasped softly before hurrying over to him with a smile already stretching her lips. "Thank you very much." She told him, as politely as her mama had taught her to always be, and indicated the book so he would know what she was talking about.

His eyes dropped to the book in his hands, then shot back up to hers, and with a huff that she suspected was more for show than anything else, he shoved the large volume against her chest. Her arms immediately came up so she could wrap them solidly around the book and cradle it to her. She barely even heard him mutter a small "whatever" or shuffle on his feet as he backed away from her, nor did she register him moving towards Naruto to presumably figure out what the boy had done and why. Instead she focused an endeared look at the object in her hands for a few moments, then reluctantly tore her gaze away and tucked it safely under her arm as she sought out the two boys. She almost laughed when she saw them by the swings and clearly arguing once more, if their pinched faces and jerky hand movements were anything to go by.

Ever the peacemaker, she went over to them with the intention of breaking up whatever tiff they were having now, and in the process wondered if this was going to be a pattern with them. She hoped not, but as long as it didn't dissolve into punches and rolling around on the ground she supposed it would be a good start. Not exactly what she'd considered friendship, but then what did she know? The only real example she had to go off of was Ino, and it wasn't like the blonde girl was prone to arguments, let alone fights. As she neared them, she cleared her throat in an attempt to get their attention, and found she had to do it again and even louder to accomplish the task. Absently, she also hoped that this too would not become a pattern with them because she wasn't sure her vocal cords could take the abuse.

"Why don't I push you both on the swings?" She offered, as that seemed the easiest way to prevent any further arguing.

Two pairs of eyes blinked at her and she had stifle a giggle at miffed expressions they were treating her too. Naruto was the first to recover by eagerly nodding his head and shouting his agreement; she was beginning to suspect that any displays of kindness towards him would always be met thusly. Sasuke shot a mild glare at Naruto for his obnoxiously loud response, but still nodded in an almost sullen manner to let her know that he too was on board with the idea. Deciding that while both responses would take some getting used to, she was happy to follow through on her offer, and, more importantly, for them to not be bickering. So she put her book beside one of the poles holding up the swingset and then positioned herself behind the boys as they got situated on their respective swings, a smile adorning her face all the while. Ultimately, she felt this had been a good day and hoped for more like it. One glance at the two boys let her know they were both of the same opinion more or less, though Naruto chose that exact moment to make a harebrained comment, to which Sasuke immediately sniped at.