Summary: Naruto finds a child crying in the back alley. Knowing exactly how she feels, he decides to take her home with him. More than anything he wants to take care of her and give her the life she deserves. Sasuke isn't pleased with the idea and wants Naruto to leave her by herself. But after being alone all his life, how can Naruto send a child into a life just like his?
Naruto heard it. The small, pitiful, sniffles. At first he thought he had only imagined it, but as he drew closer, the sobs grew louder. Curious, he followed the sound until it led him to a dark alley. Unsure of what to do, always having been told not to go into anywhere suspicious, he stood there. He rocked back and forth on his feet, willing his conscious to make a choice. Finally he couldn't take it any more. The sound was killing him inside. Slowly he made his way down the alley. When he reached the dead end, he noticed that the crying had stopped, but there was a presence. It wasn't threatening. In, fact, he felt like it shrunk away, as if trying to hide. He turned his head left, than right, then looked up, then looked down. He turned in a circle, focusing his eyes in the dim light, trying hard to pinpoint the now non-existent sound. It was then that he spotted it.
In the far back corner, pressed into space between the two walls, lay a bundle of blankets. Suddenly it shifted. Blinking, Naruto rubbed his eyes, thinking they were playing tricks on him. But no! They shifted again! Slowly he approached it, reaching for a kunai just in case. When he was within range, he reached out and yanked the top blanket off, throwing it aside. Whatever had been under them let out a loud squeak, and tried to scurry away. Before the mysterious... Person? … Could get away, the blond caught it by its shirt. "Settle down!" He ordered softly, gently setting the squirming package down. After making sure that it wouldn't run away, he let go of its collar, and turned it so it was facing him. What he saw made him gasp and drop the kunai.
He'd been right to assume it was a person, but he hadn't expected to find this. It was a little girl, no more than three or four years old. She had very thin, mid-length hair. He couldn't tell what color because of the poor lighting but he guessed, because of the way it blended in, it was either a very dark brown, or black. Her eyes were a sort of piercing, stormy, gray. A good portion of her hair curtained them so they were hard to see. Her skin color closely resembled that of Iruka's, he noticed.
The entirety of her body was covered in dirt and other things. Her clothes were tattered and worn, as though they'd been tossed out and later picked up. There was nothing covering her feet and upon closer examination, Naruto noticed a few scars along her arms and her left calf. Not to mention how very, very thin she was. Even for a child her age she was tiny. If Naruto had to guess, she probably weighed between twenty-five and thirty pounds, if that. The clothes she was wearing were just barely clinging to her frame. When she was standing, with her head bent, she was probably just over three feet tall.
Naruto couldn't help but stare at her. He had never been good with kids but he knew that he would never leave one out on the street to fend for themselves. The world was harsh, and orphaned children weren't looked kindly upon. He knew from experience. Finally he noticed the shaking. Another minute he realized she was shivering. Quietly he asked, trying to sound as least threatening as he could, "Are you cold?" He frowned when she didn't respond. After a moment he tried again. "Are you hungry?" He saw her muscles tighten, and saw he little fists clench at her sides. "You can tell me. I'm not going to hurt you. I swear on my life." He promised her, reaching out to put his hand on her little shoulder. At that moment, her stomach let out a loud gurgle. Surprised, Naruto pulled his hand back but then chuckled. "Well at least your stomach is honest. Come on. Let's go get something to eat. We can talk after you've gotten something warm in your belly. Okay?" Standing, he retrieved his dropped kunai, slipped it back in its pouch, and offered his hand to the little one. At first she didn't move, her muscles still tense, and her fists still clenched, but when she saw the boys bright, full-mouthed smile, and the kind hand waiting, she reached out and took it. Slowly she wrapped her fingers tightly around his, watching to see if he would all of a sudden yank it away. When he didn't she loosened up and then clung to his arm, practically wrapping herself around it.
"Don't worry." Naruto assured her. "I'm not going to abandon you." Still smiling he slowly made his way across Konoha to his favourite restaurant in the entire world. By the time they were a block away, he could practically taste the ramen on his tongue. His mouth was watering in anticipation. Finally the reached the small shop. Entering, Naruto chose two stools closest to wall. Before the cook even had a chance he ordered loudly, "Ou-chan, two pork miso ramen please!" After placing the order, he gently peeled the girl from him, making sure to tell her he wasn't going any where.
"Oh Naruto!" The owner said, smiling. "Coming right up!" He quickly set to work.
The young girl watched in fascination as the food was prepared. With every passing second she felt her mouth water more and more. Her stomach gurgled loudly and when the mysterious boy, who she could only assume was named Naruto, laughed she blushed and hid her face, silently cursing her angry stomach.
Seeing this the young ninja said, "Don't be embarrassed. It's only natural to get hungry." He patted her on the softly on the back and then grabbed a pair of chopsticks from the can on the counter. He grabbed one for her as well and set them down where she could reach them. He decided it was kind of cute how her feet dangled so far off the ground and how she had to sit on the very edge of the seat to reach the counter. Snapping his apart he turned to see her struggling to break hers. Holding out his hand once more he asked, "Do you want some help? They can be kind of stubborn sometimes." Shyly she nodded and gave them to him. Breaking them apart he handed them back. She took them in her hands and then stared blankly at them, as though she'd never seen them before. Naruto shrugged it off as it just being the first time in awhile she'd had to use them.
Roughly ten minutes later, Teuchi turned to them with two heaping bowls of steaming ramen. Setting one down in from of his number one customer, he paused when he didn't see anyone else in the shop. "You could have waited to order your second bowl. The noodles are going to get soggy." He said, glancing back at the blond.
"Ou-chan. What are you talking about? The other one is for her." Naruto pointed a thumb at his little package.
Teuchi stopped, blinked, looked at Naruto and then finally at the little girl. For a minute he just stared at her, and she at him, but then he took a few steps backwards, nearly dropping the dishware he was holding. "Naruto! Who is this young child?" He asked, finding his footing. "Don't tell me you of all people had an illegitimate child-"
"No!" Naruto screamed, jumping to his feet. "I found her in an alley all by herself. She was crying. I couldn't just leave her there so I brought her with me." He further explained, sitting down again. Taking his chopsticks he began slurping the long noodles into his mouth. He was too hungry to explain all the little details.
Sighing the owner slowly set the bowl down in front of her. Rubbing his eyes he asked carefully, "What if she's a spy Naruto? Do you know anything about this child at all? It's not uncommon for other countries to send children like her to infiltrate. A ninja may know what his mission his but that doesn't mean they'd all be heartless enough to kill a perfectly innocent child."
Naruto's utensils stopped midway to his mouth. A look of shock came over him and his jaw dropped. Slowly he turned to the girl sitting by his side. "I didn't even think about that!" He whispered, the color in his face draining. Again, his heart thought before his brain did. As he stared slack-jawed at her his brain started running again. Deep down inside of him he could feel that this child was innocent. He could feel it. She had the same kind of vibe he'd had when he was a child. Quickly he closed his mouth and turned to Teuchi and stated firmly, "I believe in her. I don't think she's a spy."
The owner shook his head. "If things turn out badly than it's all on your head-"
For the first time the girl spoke. Her voice was so soft that, if Naruto hadn't had perfect hearing, he wouldn't have caught it. "I'm not a spy."
Again Teuchi looked at her, and again he blinked. "All good spies say they aren't spies." He replied softly after a minute or so. "But, for now, I'll believe in Naruto's instincts. Go ahead and eat before it gets cold." He pushed the bowl in front of her before turning to the blonde again. "So. Does she have a name?"
Naruto shrugged as he finished off the last of the broth. "Dunno. I told her I would let her eat something and then have her talk." Just as he was about to ask for another one, he noticed that the other bowl hadn't been touched. Just before he opened his mouth to ask what was wrong, he saw her fumbling with the thin pieces of wood. He grinned and said loudly, "Ou-chan! Do you have any forks?"
"Forks? What would you need a fork for-?" He turned again. He couldn't help but grin as well when he saw the boy pointing at the child. He too noticed how much trouble she was having. Chuckling he opened a drawer near the stove and produced a silver fork which he set in front of her. "Try this instead." He told her. The look of appreciation she gave him made him melt a little.
As soon as she had the fork in her hands she dove head first into the food. It didn't take her more than five minutes to polish off the entire thing. As soon as she'd finished she let out a soft burp and leaned back on her hands. A little smile made its way to her lips and her entire body seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and of appreciation. She closed her eyes for a brief second, just letting her stomach settle and when she opened her eyes she let out a soft gasp. A stack of four bowls was piled next to her one. Letting her eyes trail back she watched as the young boy inhaled his fifth, and final, one. She couldn't help but be amazed.
"Thanks for the food!" He said, leaning back on his hands as well, and letting out a satisfied grunt. No one said anything as the dishes were carried away, or even as the bill was paid, but once all was said and done, Naruto needed answers. Turning to the child he asked, "What's your name? I can't keep calling you 'you.'"
"Kazuki." She mumbled, leaning forward and letting her hair hide more of her face.
"Kazuki. That's a very nice name." Naruto replied. "Now tell me, Kazuki, where'd you come from?"
"Konoha." She replied as she began twiddling her thumbs.
The genin's eyes widened. She's from around here? "So you're from here..." He said softly. "Where are your parents, and how come you're not with them?"
Tears started to form at the corner of her eyes and her hands stilled. "They left me... They said they were coming back but they never did. Now I'm all by myself." One tear slid down her cheek and then another and then they were flooding her eyes, blurring her vision. "Daddy said that they'd be back in a week. Grandma said so, too. But they never came back. Then Grandma left me too. She closed her eyes and wouldn't open them. Grandpa had gone away a long time ago so I'm all alone." She sniffed and tried to force the tears away but they kept coming. They wouldn't stop
"How long ago was that?" Naruto asked, surprised. He hadn't expected it to be like this. Her parents really had abandoned her. Not to mention loosing her grandmother. She was so young and already she'd experienced more than she should have. "Also, how old are you?"
"A year ago." She cried as she futilely wiped away tears. "I'm turning five next month."
That's too young. Naruto decided. She's too young to be on her own. He turned in his seat and reached out to her, pulling her onto his lap. Wrapping his arms around the tiny body, he hugged closer and whispered, "I'm so sorry Kazuki. I know how hard it must have been." The tiny being huddled in his arms only cried harder, little fists clinging to the front of his jumper, and tears drenching it so thoroughly he might as well have been thrown in a river. As he sat there holding her, the door to the shop slid open and another ninja stepped in.
"Oh, Sakura!" Teuchi exclaimed pleasantly. "Can I get you something to eat?" He offered without turning from the stove.
"No thanks. But have you seen Naruto-?" She stopped mid-sentence when she saw her exact target, clinging to a much smaller figure. "Naruto?"
He looked up and turned around. Seeing the familiar pink hair he said, "Sakura-chan. What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you. What else would I be doing?" She huffed, putting her hands on her hips. "That aside, who is that child, and why is she with you of all people?"
"Oh... Um..." Naruto rubbed his head sheepishly, a dopey grin on his face. "Sakura-chan. This is Kazuki. I found her in an alley all alone and I couldn't just leave her be so I took her with me..." He explained hastily, preparing himself for a face full of knuckle. He blinked when he realized that Sakura wasn't in her I'm-about-to-kill-you pose. In fact she was staring at the child with a thoughtful look on her face.
"You're such an idiot. She could have been a spy you know." Sakura said, crossing his arms over her chest. "But that's alright I suppose. She seems to really like you. What do you plan to do with her?"
"'Do with her'?" Naruto repeated, blinking a few times again.
"That's what I said." She took the few steps it was to where her teammate sat and bent down a little, uncrossing her arms and setting them on her knees. "She's really cute." Sakura observed, taking in the dark complexion, the dark eyes, and the dark hair. "You can't possibly take her with you. You've got training, missions, and other odd jobs to do. Not to mention you're only sixteen. There's no way you could support a kid. Not with a genin's salary at least."
Naruto slumped in his seat. "Sakura-chan. You don't have to be so mean about it. I don't need reminding that I'm only a genin." All of a sudden he felt a slight tug on his jacket. Opening his eyes he saw a pair of stormy gray ones peering back.
"Nii-chan." She said. "You're not going to leave me are you?"
Naruto gazed into them, searching for something, anything, but he found nothing. She was simply an innocent, naïve child that had had too much life experience already. When looking at her, the blond couldn't help but picture a tiny kitten in a molding cardboard box with a 'for sale' sign tacked haphazardly to it. It was so pitiful it hurt.
Turning back to the pinkette he declared decidedly, "I'm going to take care of her. No matter what I have to do I'm going to do it. I can't just toss her back where I found her. That's against all of my personal laws." He wrapped his arms tightly around Kazuki, and held her close. "Have some faith in me, Sakura-chan."
"Whenever I put faith in you," Sakura said, standing, "you wind up half dead." She turned her steely gaze on her friend. "I swear Naruto, that if I find out you've done anything to put this child in harms way, I will strangle you until you are no longer breathing. Then, with a slightly forced smile she turned to Kazuki and said, "Kazuki, if you ever have problems with this idiot, come and tell me alright? I'll fix him up straight for you." The younger of the two girls nodded quickly. She had decided, rather quickly, that she didn't like this girl called Sakura very much.
"Anyway Sakura-chan. You said you were looking for me. Was there a reason?" Naruto pulled the girl away from him and set her back down on her own seat.
"Oh right. Tsunade-sama is looking for you." Sakura replied, brushing her hair out of her face.
Naruto sighed. Right then he didn't really feel like dealing with the voluptuous Hokage. He just wanted to bring Kazuki back to the house and get her cleaned up. He really wanted to get to know her. "Can't you tell her I've got my hands full right now?" He pleaded, giving her his best puppy-dog eyes.
"Tell her yourself." Sakura said, ignoring the big, blue eyes staring at her. "And anyway. This is a good chance for her to meet Kazuki. If you avoid her it's only going to make her more suspicious. Not only that," she leaned in to whisper, "you may be able to find out what happened to the girls parents."
Naruto sighed again. "I suppose." He muttered. Putting on a smile, he turned to Kazuki and asked sweetly, "Kazuki, do you know who the Hokage is?"
"The important person right?" She asked, cocking her head to the side in confusion.
"That's right. And this important person wants me to come see her so she can give me another job." Naruto explained, patting her on the head. "You want to meet her too right?" Kazuki's face lit up in excitement.
Jumping from her chair she stared up at at Naruto with her big doe-eyes and asked, "Can I really meet her?"
Chuckling Naruto responded, "Of course. Sakura-chan, I'll go meet her now." Standing, Naruto stretched, thanked Teuchi, and then said, "Yosh! Let's head to Tsunade-baa-chan." Taking Kazuki by the hand, he brushed past Sakura, through the door and then through town towards the Hokage's building.
They reached Tsunade's office in no time. Knocking, the two of them entered and went to stand in front of her desk. "Na, baa-chan, you called for me?" Naruto said eagerly.
"Ah, Naruto. I'm glad to see you actually came in a timely manner. Now, I have a mission for you that's of the utmost importa-" Tsunade stopped mid-sentence after finally looking up. Like the others Naruto had seen today, she blinked a few times after taking notice of the little girl clinging to him. The room went deathly silent for a minute. Then, the Hokage stood, and slammed her hands onto her desk as she screamed, "Naruto! Who the hell is this child? She could be a spy and you're just waltzing right into the Hokage's office, showing her my exact location?
"B-baa-chan?" Naruto squeaked, taking a step backwards. "I-it's not what you think."
Seething, the woman asked, through gritted teeth, "Than what, Naruto, is it exactly?" Her fingers curled on her desk, the wood splintering with the force of her anger.
Now the blonde stepped forward, ready with an explanation. "I found her when I was out in town today. She was crying in a back alley and I couldn't just leave her! Look at her. Everyone keeps telling me she could be a spy but I don't think she is. She's so little and I don't think another country would send someone who was this tiny, and this frail, here to gather information. She looks like she hasn't had an actual meal in weeks! Please, baa-chan. Try to understand!" He pleaded. He could barely wait for her answer. Like a little child, waiting impatiently for a treat, he rocked back and forth on his heels, and bounced in place. Of all the people in the village, Naruto felt that Tsunade would understand his reasoning best.
Finally she sighed, and slowly sat back down in her chair. Leaning forward on to her poor desk, she rubbed her temples and stated, "Fine, Naruto. I get it. But-" She looked up, a dangerous look in her eyes, "if anything is to happen to you, this village, or even this country, because of this child, it's all on your head. Got it?"
"Yes!" Naruto exclaimed, doing a little bit of a happy dance. "Thank you so much, Tsunade-baa-chan! But..." He paused. "You did call me here and you said I had a new mission-"
"Stop!" Tsunade held out her hand and said, "I've made a last minute decision. Your mission is to take care of this child. Kazuki is her name, yes?" Naruto nodded as his face fell a little. "Don't worry. I realize that children can be expensive. I will help pay for expenses and such. Now, I'd like to ask, before anything else happens, where are her parents?"
"Gone? What do you mean gone?"
"Alright. What about her grandparents?"
"Any other living relatives?"
Naruto shrugged. "Didn't ask."
Kazuki spoke up finally. "My mommy and daddy didn't have any brothers or sisters. My grandma and grandpa were my only family after mommy and daddy left." Her eyes were welling with tears again.
The Hokage looked absolutely... Speechless. Her harsh gaze softened and a soft oh escaped her lips. For a moment she didn't speak but then softly she asked, "Kazuki, may I please speak with Naruto alone for a minute? You can come back in soon, okay?" She waited for the girl to hesitantly nod before having the eccentric blonde escort her into the hallway. After he'd closed the door she spoke again. "Naruto, are you absolutely sure about this? We don't have any information on her-"
"Actually, baa-chan, I was going to ask about that." Naruto interrupted. "Kazuki says she's been alone for about a year. I'm pretty sure her parents were ninja. They told her they were coming back in a week and they never returned. They may have abandoned the village or they may have been killed in action. Don't you think you could have Shizune-nee-san look into it?"
Once again Tsunade sighed. Things were getting too complicated for her liking. "Naruto, the people in this village are very busy, Shizune included."
"Please baa-chan!" Naruto placed his hands on the edge of her desk and got as close to her face as was comfortable. "Not only does she need to know that she might not have been abandoned, but I don't want her to go through life thinking that her parents were awful liars. Please?"
Blinking in surprise, Tsunade pulled away a little before sighing, and agreeing. Somehow she felt that she might regret the decision later on but for now it was something that needed to be done. For both of the children. "Fine Naruto. When Shizune is free I will ask her to do a search for you. If that is all, call Kazuki back in here." Naruto let out a yip of excitement and hurriedly opened the door, bringing the child back inside. Once she was situated Tsunade began to explain her last second plan. "Kazuki, from today onward you will be living with Naruto and his... Good friend..."
"Sasuke isn't my good friend! He's my boyfriend!" The genin exclaimed, offended that she would say something like that. "And he's going to be my husband some day."
"But nii-chan is a boy..." Kazuki innocently observed.
"Love has no boundaries!" Naruto explained, showing her his best nice-guy pose.
"Naruto!" Tsunade coughed, bringing their attention back to her. "Please keep your mouth shut." Again she gave him a dangerous look that spoke of instant death if he did something wrong. "Now, child, Naruto is kind of a special case. He lives with Sasuke who, up until very recently, was a very, very naughty boy. To make sure nothing goes wrong, Naruto watches over him, but they also have a very different kind of relationship. They're very close with each other, much like a lot of mommies and daddies are. Don't worry though. They are still (mostly) reliable people. As I was saying you'll be living with him and his boyfriend in their home. I'll be bringing in some paperwork that will make them your legal guardians from the moment they sign the papers. Until then you have to promise to be a very good girl, and you have to listen to what they tell you, alright?"
Kazuki nodded and smiled a shy smile, once again latching herself onto her soon to be father like a leach. "Hm!"
"Very good. You're dismissed. Naruto," she said as they turned to leave, "this does not exempt you from any training you have to do and I will still be sending you on missions so you can earn some of your pay. Until then I'll compensate for any sort of clothing or medical needs she has."
"Sure. Thanks baa-chan!" Smiling and waving, the older of the two children led them out of the office, and back into the bustling streets of Konoha.
A/N: So, I realize it's pretty OOC, but I tried my hardest to keep them as IC as I could. Also, sorry if it's kind of all over the place. It was just an idea that struck me and I wanted to write it, so I did. There was really no particular direction it was headed in. If anyone is interested in it, I'll post a chapter two at a much, much, later date. Thanks for reading!