Okay, here's the first chapter of my new fanfiction – Life on the Run. Enjoy!
Summary: Naruto's life is set on a different path the night Itachi said five seemingly innocent words: "He will come with me." Now he lives as a fugitive with one of the most powerful nuke-ninjas making unusual friends, such as Zabuza Haku and Kisame along the way.
Life on the Run
Itachi jumped from roof to roof, continuously leaping from moon lit tile to the next. Blood was slowly seeping through the layers of his ANBU shinobi clothing making his skin tingle in disgust at such sin filled life blood of his relatives touching him. Yet he continued on. His discomfort was of little matter as he had one more mission to complete before he could leave and never return to this place he had always and would continue, long after he left, to look upon as his true home.
There! A brief flash of yellow blond alerted him to his mission's purpose bellow him in the alley between two stores. He frowned, his charge should not have been out at this time of night, and all things considered he was a good child, so something must have happened to cause such disobedience as to leave his apartment at such a late hour as this.
This idea was only strengthened by the fact that the young boy he was to watch over was trying to hide amongst the bins overflowing with rubbish. Not moments later did his protégée twelve year old ninja trained hearing pick up the undeniable yelling and furious shouts of a crowd heading their way.
They eventually arrived at their location, and would have continued past the alley's entrance if it were not for the ninja's within the mass. The blonde kid had the most incredible chakra for his age. If a ninja were to push his senses his chakra would appear as a blazing blue light, so strong was its potency. It was unusual for one as young as the blond to have such a dense and large reserve of chakra; however he was not a normal kid. After all, he was their village's resident Jinchuriki.
As the majority of the mob passed, the two ninjas recognised the boy's chakra pulses and signalled to the others, revealing the child's hiding place. The pack immediately converged on the alley's entrance, their voices increasing in volume as their excitement rose the closer they got to their aim.
Itachi had found out from day one what the worst part of this mission was: the rules. He wasn't allowed to protect the child from any of the beatings sent his way, only heal him afterwards or step in when his death was imminent.
All of the ANBU agents had, at some point, been assigned to 'guard' the boy, and all had been horrified by the extent the villagers often went to. However they were ninja that only responded and obeyed the Hokage. It did not matter that the Hokage was being manipulated by the council, his word was still law.
Itachi still remembered the time his team had been sent on 'babysitting' duty. His whole team had been disheartened by the job, all of them falling into a depressed silence at the impending week of taking shifts to follow the child.
It was his first time as he had only joined the ANBU a month or so before, and whilst his team had done the mission several times in the past, this was the first time for him. In the beginning he had misinterpreted his team mates' attitudes to being disheartened by such an easy and boring mission. He had soon found out that there was an entirely different reason behind their stifling silence.
He had to be held back by the second in command whilst the other two watched on in their ever present silence whilst the innocent child's screams filled the night as the villagers gauged three whisker like marks into each of the boy's cheeks.
The old screams seemed to mirror the present cries of pain that filled the night and Itachi had to force himself not to flinch at each and every kick and hit that collided with the small blond boy's frail form.
"Hold him down!" One of the ninja's among the mob yelled out, and several people stepped forth, each of them grabbing or standing on one of the child's limbs rendering him immobile.
A sickening crunch filled the night as the boy's wrist gave way under the pressure of a villagers boot.
His scream pierced straight through Itachi's ears and heart.
He clutched at the ANBU standard uniform over his pounding organ. It just was not right. The kid was innocent. Such pure blue eyes only dulled by the layer of salty water that ran down his scarred cheeks from all those years ago.
There was only another three minutes before the shift would change and he would leave Konoha forever. And it was then that the same ninja as before drew a kunai from his weapons pouch. As it sliced into the old scars on the boy's cheeks Itachi finally lost it.
The child protégée twelve years of age, the youngest ANBU captain ever to have walked the earth, the boy who had never in all his years as a ninja lost control of his emotions, jumped down into the alley and broke the wrist of his fellow ninja with a simple twist of his own. The kunai was dropped to the ground with a clang that echoed in the sudden silence of his appearance.
The crack of the breaking bone was followed by a moment of stillness as everyone present processed what had happened. What seemed like an eternity later to the furious Uchiha, everyone finally started moving again, all fleeing from the scene of their crime. All, that is, except for the two ninja's who had been helping the villagers.
The one with the broken wrist had cried out in pain and was now clutching the appendage in silence, glaring at Itachi. The second stood in an aggressive fighting stance slightly in front of his partner, also staring angrily at the Uchiha. Itachi stood calmly between the boy and the two ninjas in a seemingly relaxed manor. Someone of a higher level than his two opponents would have marvelled at how comfortable he appeared whilst being perfectly on guard; however the two before him now could not see past the facade.
The uninjured of the two leaped forwards and took a swipe at Itachi's face, which the dark haired almost teen dodged with ease. The real aim of the attack however was the partner using the blind spot the other ninja had created to kick Itachi's legs out from under him. At least he would have if Itachi's Sharingan had not previously flared with his fury and already shown him the move about to transpire.
With a grace rarely seen in someone of his age Itachi hit both the assailants on the back of their necks rendering them unconscious before they could continue their attack.
Not sparing the two another glance he swiftly turned and moved to the side of the child he had just protected.
He had not acted quickly enough and the three whisker-like scars on each of the tanned cheeks had been cut open once more. The blood seeping from the cuts was mixed with salty tears that escaped from beneath the boy's eyes lids that were clenched shut.
As he approached he purposefully let his feet fall heavily so as the boy would hear his advance, not wanting to scare him. However this seemed to have the opposite effect as every step that drew him nearer resulted in the child tensing more and more until he dropped to his knees at the blonde's side. Reaching out he gently whipped at one of the child's cheeks with his sleeve, and the boy flinched at the contact, a whimper escaping from his clenched teeth, but other than that did not respond.
"Naruto-Kun…?" Itachi finally spoke, and the words just made the boy cringe again. Seeing that his attempt to clear the blood away was just smearing it, Itachi focused instead on Naruto's wrist. It was bent at an unsettling angle, lying on the ground at the boy's side, just as unmoving as the blonde child himself. "Naruto-kun…?" He tried again but still received no response; the dazzling blue gems he knew to be set into the blood streaked face remained hidden by the eyelids, one of them already beginning to darken with the first sign of a black eye forming. He reached out once more and touched his shoulder to gain his attention, but once again the child flinched but this time also visibly tried to move away from the contact, only to hiss through clenched teeth at the pain this brought the beaten body.
Refusing to be put off by this for now, Itachi kept his hand on Naruto's shoulder in as gentle and non-threatening a manner as possible.
"Naruto-Kun, my name's Itachi." Screwsecrecy. Itachi thought as he knew revealing his identity to the boy would do no harm, especially with his imminent departure from the village. "I work for the Hokage. You're hurt, so it's best I take you to him so he can help you out. Okay? I won't hurt you like those others." Yet again he was met by a silence that stretched on. Eventually he sighed and was about to try asking again, not wanting to freak the child out by taking him without his consent, however Naruto then opened his mouth just enough for a few words to slip out.
"You'll take me to Jiji?" It came as little more than a whisper, but Itachi just manage to catch it. He was slightly taken aback by the endearment of sorts towards the village's leader, but pushed it aside for the time being.
"Yes." He said simply. Watching closely he saw Naruto's head tilt forwards just enough to be counted as a nod, and, before the boy could change his mind, he kindly lifted the small body up, holding him against his chest, only pausing to manoeuvre the broken limb as painlessly as possible so that it rested in the boy's lap rather than hanging down where it would sway as they moved and cause more pain. The boy's breath hitched as his wrist throbbed unbearably, but other than that did not complain. He continued to keep his eyes screwed shut and his teeth gritted to stop himself from vocalising all of the throbbing and aching and stinging and hurting that his body was currently going through.
Itachi ghosted through the village, doing his best not to jostle his passenger, and approached the Hokage tower at speed, heading straight through the open window and into the office when he arrived. The third Hokage was sitting at his desk, a grave expression on his face, still very much disturbed by the orders he had been forced to give the ANBU agent just a few hours earlier concerning the youngster's own family.
"Itachi! Wha…" He started, when the same boy he was so troubled over jumped into the room. However he was stopped by the sight of the child in his arms. "Naruto!" Itachi calmly stepped towards the Hokage who hurriedly pushed the piles of paper work and other objects off his desk, watching frantically as Itachi lowered the blonde so he was lying on the wooden surface. "What happened?" Sarutobi questioned as he inspected the boy's wounds, he quickly set about bandaging the boy's cuts, leaving the child's obviously broken wrist till last. He always kept a first aid kit at hand for such moments, as Naruto was not welcome at the village hospital, often leaving the medical centre in a worse condition than he entered in.
"I was finishing my shift before I left and he was being attacked in the alley beside the Ramen stand." The Uchiha explained. "I couldn't just leave him there…" He muttered more to himself than anyone else. The elderly man nodded absently, but in understanding, the majority of his attention centred on his successor's son.
"Naruto, I'm going to have to realign you wrist. It's going to hurt…" He tailed off. At the stiff nod of the boy, he gestured for Itachi to hold Naruto down. The ANBU moved around the desk so he was behind Naruto's head and placed steady hands on each of the boy's shoulders so he would not try to move away as Sarutobi reset the broken bones.
Naruto tensed at his touch and his breathing quickened, and at Itachi's nod to show he was ready the Hokage grabbed the child's wrist and pushed at the bones under the skin with nimble fingers till they were all in the correct position before immediately bandaging the appendage.
Naruto had hissed at his initial touch but after that screamed in pain as the old man messed with the injury, thrashing against Itachi's hold, but weakly which only further proved his poor state. As Sarutobi finished off the bandages he had degraded to whimpering before pulling his arm from the old man's hold and clutching it to his chest. Itachi slowly removed his grasp on the child's shoulders and shifted away from him as the blonde slowly rose into a sitting position, wiping his tears of pain on the sleeve of his undamaged arm.
For the first time that evening since Itachi had found him, he opened his celestial blue eyes and a few tears that had been trapped trailed down his cheeks before being wiped away along with the rest. He then glanced up at his saviour and the Hokage, before looking down at the floor again, waiting for someone to say or do something. The two others in the room glanced at each other before Sarutobi walked towards him and place a hand on top of his mop of golden blonde hair, comfortingly ruffling it. The old man's eyes saddened at the way the boy flinched at the contact, and acted as though to pull away from the touch, until he was certain he was not being hurt.
"Naruto," he started, kneeling down so he was at the boy's level, "do you remember who did this to you?"
"Hokage-Sama-" Itachi started, trying to inform his leader that he could recount to him every last person who had been present, but he was cut off by the old man's harsh look in his direction.
"Naruto…?" Sarutobi asked again.
"…No." The child replied hesitantly, refusing to look either of them in the eye yet again. It was apparent to both men that Naruto was not telling them the truth, however only the elder of the two was aware of just why the boy was pretending otherwise, whilst the younger was left baffled by the obvious lie.
Sarutobi knew the truth; Naruto was completely terrified of everyone in the village. This, he knew, also included himself to some extent as well. Whilst Naruto never acted openly scared of him, he never could stop himself entirely from flinching away from any physical contact from the old man. This fear of anyone and everyone caused the boy to fear even telling on them, thinking he would only be punished for other's suspicions of him being the informant. It did not help that the boy also obviously, as much as the Hokage tried to teach him otherwise, believed much of what the villagers told him. The boy took to heart every name thrown his way on the streets. 'Monster' and 'devil's spawn' were regularly hurtled at the child with no provocation to warrant such cruelty, and each time the blonde died a little more inside. His smiles become just that bit more fake, and his true self retreating that minute amount more into himself.
Right now, what sat before the old man and the soon to be ex-ANBU was little more than a shell of the lively and oblivious child that had existed a short few years before. What sat before them was a boy that had been put through too much for the solitary heart to handle without love and acceptance. What sat before them was a child in pain, on the verge of falling over the edge.
A sudden knock at the door caused all three occupants to stare startled in the direction of the sound. Sarutobi immediately recognised the presences beyond the room, and quickly motioned for Itachi to hide along with Naruto. The ANBU protégée advanced towards the blonds who tried to back up, but knew to remain silent considering the situation. His eyes silently pleaded for the masked figure to stop, but he did not. The next thing he knew, he was looking down at a five story drop, which was still growing in distance as he quickly realised Itachi had grabbed around the middle, holding him under his arm as he had climbed out the window from the Hokage's office, and was now ascending up onto the roof of the Hokage Tower to wait.
Meanwhile, Sarutobi had called out for the 'guests' to enter, after hurriedly shoving the first aid equipment under his desk, away from their view.
"Hokage-Sama." Koharu said in greeting as she entered the room, closely followed by Homura. The old man nodded to them in a civil manor, mimicking their professional outlook.
"Koharu-San, Homura-San, what can I do for you at such a late hour as this?" He questioned his ex-teammates.
"We have come to confirm that Weasel has completed his mission to annihilate the threat the Uchiha clan had become. However, it seems he was unable to completely conform to our orders." The old woman spoke up.
"He left his younger brother alive. Sasuke was found just a few minutes ago amongst the corpses of his kin by a patrolling Chuunin, and was immediately transferred to the hospital." Homura continued for her. The Hokage sighed tiredly.
"We will have to make preparations for him and the village then. It would be best that Sasuke never discovers the true reason behind his clan's slaughter, and we give him time to recover from this trauma. In the meantime, we need to bring our shinobi status up to critical. With the loss of out policing force other nations may feel the need to push at our boundaries and test how much we have been weakened. We need to be primed in case such a situation arises." He stated in a well rehearsed voice, keeping his emotions hidden, ready to be examined in his own time. Now he was the Hokage and needed to focus on what was best for his village. He had also known in advance that Itachi would not be killing Sasuke that night, and had already been prepared for the confrontation with Koharu and Homura over the matter.
The two elderly council members nodded their heads in agreement when another knock came at the door immediately followed by Danzo and two blank faced shinobi entering that the Hokage knew to belong to the other man's recently founded Root division within the ANBU.
"Hokage-Sama, I apologise for the late hour of my visit, however I assure you I strictly come on the utmost important business." He said, speaking words that should have been respectful, if not for the slight smirk that captured his lips suggesting a more sarcastic tone.
"What appears to be the problem Danzo-San? If you intend to inform me of the survival of Uchiha Sasuke, then I regret to inform you that Koharu-San and Homura-San have already done so." A frown formed on the leader of Root's face, seemingly irked by the news.
"Whilst that was a partial part on what I came to tell you, Hokage-Sama, I also came to update you of the latest situation concerning our resident Jinchuriki." It was the Hokage's turn for a scowl to claim his features.
"And that would be...?" He said a threat clear within the old man's tone.
"He has ruthlessly attacked two ninja behind the local ramen stand, and has injured them severely. He must be immediately found and punished accordingly. Given his circumstances and the laws on a civilian attacking a ninja within his own shinobi village, the death sentence is most appropriate." He answered calmly. Sarutobi's chakra briefly flared in pure rage before he brought himself under control once more.
"You plan to place the death sentence upon a seven year old child?" He asked incredulously.
"In light of his resident, I believe such a punishment is appropriate." Danzo stated firmly.
On the roof Itachi was having problems holding onto Naruto who was determined to get out of the older boy's grip. Eventually his struggling grew to the point where Itachi risked them both falling from the roof. Regretting what he was about to do before he had even carried it out, the twelve year old delivered a chop to the back of the child's neck rendering him unconscious. Slowly he relaxed as he sat on the edge with his legs dangling above open space, within a shadow so as he would not be seen. He laid out the younger boy perpendicular to him, allowing his lap to be used as a pillow.
Even though the Hokage's office was well known to have some of the strongest sound barriers placed around it to deflect anyone listening in, the window had been left open, allowing the low murmurs of voices to be detected through the chilled night air. Itachi, now one of the last remaining Uchihas, recognised the voices of the elder members of the council along with Danzo. His hands tightened into fists at the memory of what they had told him to do just earlier that evening. After they had left it had been just him and Sarutobi. He had knelt at the man's feet and begged to let his brother live. Once that had been accepted he had begged for his brother to never discover the truth of his clan's massacre. Sarutobi had protested, but had eventually come round, and agreed to keep secret the elder Uchiha's noble and courageous act.
He heard a groan from the boy on his lap, and looked down to see the child twist a little in his sleep before settling once more. He allowed himself to reach out and brush a few golden locks from Naruto's face, the same locks were still smudged crimson with innocent blood. He began to work his fingers through the knotted blonde hair and was relieved when he heard a soft sigh break through Naruto's chapped lips, and relaxed a little himself.
A few minutes later a soft whistle caught his attention, drifting out from the window below. He transferred the younger boy into his arms and walked down the wall and in through the window, entering the Hokage's office for the third time that evening. What met his eyes was the sight of the old man bent over at his desk, the dark circles under his eyes seemed somehow more pronounced and his wrinkles deeper, making him seem suddenly too old for the stressful position he still held within the hidden village.
"Hokage-Sama?" He questioned softly, as he laid the blonde onto the desk again. The man straightened enough to look Itachi in the eyes.
"You… did you harm any of the villagers attacking Naruto?" He questioned soberly.
"No, however I did knock two shinobi unconscious before they could injure him further." The Hokage sighed.
"They are blaming Naruto. They wish to force the death sentence upon him." Itachi was momentarily stunned.
"But they can't do that! He's just a child! Besides, it wasn't him, but me. I will go tell them this instant." He made to go straight to them, aiming for the door and hoping to catch the councillors before they left the Hokage tower.
"Stop! We must think this through rationally. They are all set on getting rid of Naruto once and for all. If you go to them now, all it will do to serve is land yourself in the same position due to your mission earlier this evening. The news has already been spread around that you are a traitor to be killed on sight." He paused for breath. "You must leave immediately, that is the only hope of your escape." He said much more calmly."
"And what of Naruto? Am I to leave him here to die?" Itachi questioned.
"No. I will find a way to override those fiends' decision. I will not allow for him to be killed."
"You speak with such hope, but you already know you have let them and the council's power grow too strong. You will not be able to win this one once they have won other the other council members' votes." The despair that had been held back by a thin wall of glass shattered within Sarutobi's mind as what he had already known was confirmed out loud by a boy not even a sixth of his age. A long pause seemed to drain all life from the room. Itachi finally came to a decision, shattering the silence and changing Naruto's life forever within the same five small words. "He will come with me."
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