How to Save a Life

Summary: It was just a simple act of kindness, but Mikoto Uchiha had no idea how that one simple act would turn out.

Category: Friendship/Drama/Angst

Rating: T

Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto, the characters and plot completely belong to him. I'm just burrowing his characters for a while.

The sky was covered in nothing more than dark, almost ominous rain clouds, not a single glimpse of blue sky was visible. Rain came down like a torrent, so hard that when it slammed against the ground it exploded in a mass of miniscule droplets. The downpour had started around an hour ago and it showed no sign of stopping any time soon.

Mikoto let out a breath as she walked down the main street of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, black umbrella held over her head in an attempt to remain dry. Her simple light purple summer dress fluttered in the wind and with a sigh she quickly berated herself for her choice of attire, yet how could she have known the weather would take this turn? It had been sunny when she had left the compound.

It seemed like such a simple idea at the time. They were running out of some of their essentials, mainly food. She could have gone to the clan grocers for what was on her shopping list, but it had been a nice day at the time and she decided to use the chance to take a walk around the village.

The storm began when she was at the other side of the village.

- Brilliant idea Mikoto - She scolded herself sarcastically - It was such a nice day, so why not take a walk? -

Now here she was, umbrella held up by one hand and brown bag of groceries in the other, trying to ignore that her clothes beyond her waist were soaking wet thanks to the wind which accompanied the rain a few moments before. It was almost like whatever deity who controlled the elements was adamantly against her returning to the compound, but Mikoto was nothing if not stubborn.

She still had to make dinner, and if she was right then her husband and eldest son would already be at home waiting for her. She swore those two were incapable of looking after themselves, mainly thanks to the last time Fugaku tried to cook for the two of them. She loved him dearly, but he nearly burned the house down with that little stunt.

Knowing her youngest like she did Sasuke would obviously be out on the training grounds again, practising until he collapsed. Hopefully he would have read the signs better than his mother had and went straight home. Mikoto needed to have a talk with her husband, sure she wanted Sasuke to progress too but continuously comparing him to Itachi was definitely not a good idea, especially with how her eldest had been behaving lately.

The raven haired woman stopped for a moment, mind wandering to her eldest son's state of mind. With Shisui's supposed suicide Itachi had become more cynical and withdrawn. He hadn't spoken to anyone since that confrontation between him and the Military Police. Mikoto hadn't witnessed it firsthand but her husband had been worried about the outburst, and her little Sasuke had actually looked terrified.

She stifled a groan as the rain once again began to worsen, tearing her from her thoughts, lashing lines of rainwater slamming into the ground so hard it was almost deafening to her sensitive hearing. Everyone else had found shelter by now either in shops or stalls or in their own homes, safe and warm from the outside elements. The streets were deserted save for one Uchiha matriarch, with still quite a way to go before she made it home.

As she walked she became aware of a shape taking form. The heavy rain had kicked up a good deal of mist, making it difficult to see more than a couple of meters. The shape was sitting at the side of the road, back leaning against the wooden wall of one of the main street stands. The closer she got the more details she was able to make out.

It was a child, a boy who was leaning up against the wall, curled up with his head in his knees. His clothes, a white t-shirt and black pants were soaked by the rain, and his hair which she guessed was a spiky mess of golden locks was matted against his head. She took a few more steps and found that the boy was shivering.

It was only when she was right alongside him that her sharp eyes caught a glimpse of his face, and she immediately recognised him. Every adult in Konoha knew who this child was and the curse he carried. Mikoto knew deep down that she shouldn't shun this child, she did know enough about the arts of FÅ«injutsu to tell the difference between the kunai and the scroll which carried it.

Yet like every other adult in the village she still remembered and she still had very vivid nightmares about that night. The suffocating raw aura of a Biju, silence of the dead and the screams of the dying, the destruction wrought by just a few moments of the creatures sudden appearance in the very centre of the hidden village.

It was that very reason that made Mikoto Uchiha keep walking. She would never bully or harass the child, but the matriarch considered she might never really get the urge to help him either. The thought gave her a twinge of guilt, considering who the boy's mother was.

Yet before she continued on her way she saw something. The boys face wasn't completely hidden and Mikoto saw tanned skin and slightly puffy cheeks which reminded her so much of Kushina, if not for the whisker marks which adorned them.

That was not what made her decision.

It was his eyes, twin dead pools which should have been sparkling azure. Those eyes looked so dead and lifeless, orbs that a child around her Sasuke's age should not have. They were the eyes of someone on the threshold of sanity and insanity, lost in loneliness and isolation, suffering and neglect.

Mikoto made it an additional five steps, and then stopped.

She stood there, her conscience having a tug of war with her mind. She sighed, biting her bottom lip anxiously before turning around to look into those orbs once more. In that moment the Uchiha Matriarch made a decision. She walked over to the child, and with a slight movement held the umbrella over his head, stopping the rain from its assault.

The child's head rose slightly at the sudden end to the icy droplets, before looking up in time to see a slender hand held out for him. His head rose further to see a beautiful woman with dark eyes and raven hair looking down at him. It wasn't a look he was accustomed too. There was no hatred, distain or resentment in her eyes. Only the old man had looked at him with that expression before.

She spoke with a honeyed voice. "What are you doing out here by yourself?"

It took the boy a few moments to process the information, and then he shrugged and mumbled a reply. "I don't have anywhere to go."

She tilted her head to the side, as if thinking about something, and then she spoke again. "What's your name?"

He hesitated a moment, giving her a piercing look before replying, "Naruto."

She felt like smacking herself. Kushina had told her exactly what she was going to call her firstborn. She was adamant that the child would be called Naruto whether it be a boy or a girl. Something about some silly little book she had read.

What was it called?

Ah yes, Tales of the Gutsy Ninja.

Mikoto had read it, or been forced to read it, and she had to admit that it was a good book. The only problem was that it had been published in a time when everyone had been recovering from the aftermath of the Third Shinobi World War. There was next to no money at the time to purchase such small luxuries and tales of Shinobi fighting against a more powerful village for peace were not really welcome in the general population.

"Well Naruto," she continued after a moment. "You really shouldn't be out here in this weather, you'll catch a cold."

The boy didn't answer, probably thinking she'll get tired of acting nice and eventually leave, no one outside of a certain few were ever nice to him, but he failed to notice two important things. One, that being a mother of two had given Mikoto an abundance of patience, and two, that she had a stubborn streak almost as notorious as her late best friend. Sometimes she wondered if she had caught it from being around the redhead so much.

There was also a third.

She wasn't acting.

Mikoto sighed at the boy, so unused to being showed kindness that he must have thought of it as a trick. It made her heart sink ever so slightly. She crouched down before him and made him look her in the eyes, chocolate brown met cerulean blue for a handful of moments, and a slender hand slowly and gently took his smaller one. Then she asked him a question.

"Do you live near here?"

For a moment the blond considered just telling her to go away and leave him alone, but something stopped him. The softness in her eyes, such a stark contrast from the scathing glares he knew for most of his life, made him slowly and tentatively nod his head.

"Will you let me take you home?"

The boys apartment was located in one of the poorer districts of the village, not a suburb which would be considered a slum, for there were no such places in a Hidden Village, but it was still one of the places were those born with less tended to live.

The buildings were far older than the structures in her clan's compound, paint was cracked and chipped, roofs were missing tiles and the wood was dulled by age. Yet the buildings were in fairly good condition overall and the tightly packed buildings made the suburb seem a little homely. This was definitely one of Konoha's older districts, perhaps going as far back as the founding of the village itself.

Naruto's apartment was located on the top floor of an old apartment complex and just by letting him cautiously guide her up the steps she knew that it was sparsely populated, after all who would want to live in the same vicinity as someone who was cursed to carry a monster.

Mikoto felt her heart ache just a little bit more for this child.

The apartment itself was not overly large, yet it wasn't very small either. It was a simply setup establishment with two rooms, a joint bedroom/kitchen with the only real furniture being a single bed and a second hand sofa, all in good condition. The kitchen half had a breakfast bar as well as cupboards for food, a fridge, freezer and washing machine, all second hand but like the furniture in the bedroom also in a decent state. The second room was a small bathroom containing a shower, bath, sink and toilet. It was in pretty good condition, other than the colourful clothes strewn about and the empty food cups which covered the bar.

"Sit down on the sofa," she ordered lightly and after a moment of frowning the blond complied. Mikoto searched through the strewn clothes for a towel and found one after a few moments. She walked over to the blond and began to dry him with the towel. The poor little guy tried to look defiant, but when he was shivering like a leaf it made his attempt almost comical.

After a moment he spoke up, the toughness and defiance giving way to confusion, "Oi, Nee-chan."

"Hmm," Mikoto hummed in reply, noticing how skinny he was even for an eight year old.

"Um, well, why... why are you... " The blond looked a little like a scared rabbit.

"Why am I helping you?" Mikoto smiled sadly at that. He was so unused to an act of kindness that it frightened him. After a while he tentatively nodded, finding something immensely interesting with the far wall. It was so adorable. "Do I need a reason to help someone in need?"

"Well, no." He replied, sheepishly scratching his left cheek with a nervous smile. "It's just that no one besides the old man has ever really been nice to me before."

She smiled softly at that, trying so hard to keep the sadness of that hard truth from reaching her eyes. "Well then there's a first time for everything, right Naruto-kun?"

A blush tinged his cheeks, "Y-yea."

He smiled back, a little nervous, but it was a nice smile. It was then that the Uchiha Matriarch thought of something.

"When was the last time you had something to eat?" The blond shrugged, and she frowned before looking over at the slightly wet brown bag carrying her groceries. A shrug could mean that he couldn't remember, or perhaps it was a defensive gesture he did when he was with strangers. She was a stranger after all. After a moment she decided she had enough at home to make something for her family later. "Go and take a warm shower, dry yourself off while I prepare you something, okay?"

Once again the young child hesitated, but after a moment nodded his head, hopping off the couch and walking into the bathroom, giving her another curious glance before closing the door. There were a few moments of silence before she heard the sounds of running water, and the odd creak of pipes.

The Uchiha Matriarch noticed the tiniest shimmer of movement from the large Fire tree across the street. She knew there was always an ANBU presence watching over the boy, and they were definitely keeping an eye on her to make sure her intentions were genuine. Mikoto looked over the dishevelled and messy apartment, once again wondering what the heck she was doing.

A dozen different reasons swarmed through her head, even if the kid was the host to the most powerful of tailed beasts that didn't mean he was the creature he carried. He was just an innocent child who was forced to hold a creature capable of almost biblical destruction and malice. Another reason was maybe she felt like she owed her friend, now dead for eight years. Maybe it was the look she saw when she was about to walk past him, those hollow eyes and pitiful expression, almost screaming why, why, why, why?


Or maybe it was a strange mixture of all three reasons, and some others.

Whatever the reason Mikoto had found herself here, maybe it was something in her consciousness giving her a little nudge, who knows these things. All she knew is that she was here, now, and decided to do something about it.

The first thing she did was clean his room, picking the scattered clothes on the floor and folding them up before setting them on the bed. Like most mothers she usually found herself cleaning out of habit. Next she checked the cupboards in his small en-suite kitchen and felt her nose twitch in slight agitation before a bemused smile fell into place. There was nothing in the cupboards but cups of instant ramen.

Definitely Kushina's son;

Shaking her head she quickly disposed of the small cluster of empty ramen cups into the half full bin before walking over to her small grocery bag and removing the food within. She had planned to cook a basic dinner for her family that evening, rice, fish fillet, pickles, miso soup, seasoned sheets of seaweed and soy beans.

"Time to get to work,"

Author's Note 1: Would you believe me if I told you I wrote the rough draft of this almost eight months ago, and I'm still getting through the fourth chapter, oh how time flies huh? I just feel that the story has been in the backburner for so long that it deserves its moment. It's mostly finished now anyway, so I figured it would be a good chance to take a break from some of my more epic length stories and get back down to the gritty aspect of writing.

I hope you all like it; don't forget to pop a review to tell me what you think and Merry Christmas! Another chapter will be posted on Boxing Day.