It had been a week since the massacre, and as Naruto sat on his swing, idly moving it forward and backward, he once again found his mind wandering. The playground around him was empty, which considering the sun was just dipping over the western horizon wasn't a very surprising thing. Most parents and children had long since gone home.
He had heard from Jiji that Aunt Mikoto had just been discharged from the hospital, which was good, and she was moving out of her clan's compound with her son. The third survivor of the massacre, the girl he had saved, was still in the hospital and it seemed like she would stay there for a time more until she fully recovered.
The old man had told him that Mikoto had bought a small house over in the quarter of the village which housed the smaller clans and non-clan orientated Shinobi families. Naruto guessed the Hokage had told him this so that if he wanted to see her he would know where to look. He didn't dare approach her though, feeling that with all that had happened he would only just get in the way.
She had her own problems to deal with at the moment, so he didn't want her to worry about him. It would be lonely, not having her come over anymore, but it wasn't like he wasn't used to being on his own by now.
He would manage, somehow.
"So this is where you were."
That soft voice, he would recognise it anywhere. It may have been two weeks since he had seen or heard from her but he would still recognise that voice. He slowly turned; eyes widened a little to see her standing a few meters behind him, hands behind her back and a soft smile on her face.
She looked better, which brought untold relief to Naruto. The last time he had seen her, well, caught a glimpse of her, she had looked pale, sickly and weak, propped up in her hospital bed dressed in a white hospital kimono. For a young child such a sight would probably never leave him. The sight of somebody whom he had considered so strong and invincible looking so gaunt and lost would never leave him.
She still did not look like the strong, defiant and sure woman he remembered. But she did look better. The colour had returned to her skin. Her long black hair had regained a trickle of its vibrancy. The bandages had been removed, but her dark eyes, once so sure, did not have that look anymore. They looked older, more tired. But when she smiled at him and he saw the smile spread into those eyes, he knew that deep down it was still the woman who had plucked him off the rain soaked street and told him to get himself together.
"May I sit?"
He nodded his head after a moment, watching as she walked around the adjacent swing and sat on it. The chains creaked a little and the swing itself moved under her weight as she quickly got comfortable, allowing a silence to continue as the two of them looked at the sunset.
As the silence began to draw on Naruto began to fidget. He knew Mikoto saw this, for a small smile spread across her face before she turned to look at him. "I was beginning to get worried."
"Why?" he asked a little nervously.
"You didn't come over to visit, I kind of thought you had forgotten about me."
He shook his head vigorously at that, how could he forget about one of the only people in the village who didn't look at him like an animal or a freak? "I didn't want to get in the way."
"What makes you think you would have gotten in the way?" she asked softly. "I heard that you showed Sasuke where to find me. Thank you for that Naruto. But it would have been nice if you came over to visit as well."
He didn't know how to answer that, so he just looked down at his feet.
Mikoto smiled sadly at him, once again seeing a little boy who was so unused to kindness that his own form of showing it was a little rough around the edges. She looked at the sky, and changed the subject. "I heard you saved the life of my niece, thank you for that as well."
"How... is she?" he asked hesitantly.
"She's hurt, both physically and mentally, but she'll be alright, eventually." She answered, breathing a heavy sigh. "What my eldest son did left a mark on all of us, even me. It'll take us quite some time to come to terms with what had happened, but I am... determined that we do it together."
Naruto nodded his head, offering her a sad smile. "That's good."
"Indeed it is," she nodded her head before looking over at him. There was a moment of silence before the Matriarch of the Uchiha clan spoke again. "Naruto, I have something I want to ask you. Know that you can say no to it if you want."
He nodded, feeling that whatever she was going to ask him was important, very important, if the seriousness in her features had anything to say about it. Mikoto smiled a little nervously as she asked the question. "How would you like to come and live with me?"
Silence, for the longest time there was silence. Mikoto kept eye contact with the child in front of her, seeing a mass of emotions move through those expressive blue eyes. First there was wide eyed shock, and this lasted for a while. This was followed by disbelief, then denial, and then hope. It was almost heartbreaking to see.
"If you don't want to, you don't have too." Mikoto said softly with a small smile. "It's your choice Naruto, but I already asked the Hokage and he said it was okay. Everything has been taken care off. There's even a spare bedroom in the house that we're about to move into."
Naruto couldn't believe it. At first he thought it was a trick, but he quickly berated himself for thinking that Mikoto could do something so cruel to anyone, let alone him. The thought of not being alone anymore, of having people around him, or at least one person who cared about him seemed like a dream, or a dream within a dream.
He looked into her eyes. A young, lonely boy looked into this woman's eyes, and it clicked. Her offer was genuine, and that made him so happy, so sure that he was willing to take a chance with her, put his faith into another person and learn how to trust. He cried, but just as the first tear shed he jumped from his swing into a surprised Mikoto's arms and hugged her tight.
There was a moment of surprised hesitance, before the Uchiha matriarch wrapped her arms around the son of her oldest and dearest friend, and hugged him just as tightly as he hugged her, her own doubts of taking him in vanishing as surely as the setting sun.
"We're going to have to start moving the stuff you'll need from your apartment," she said softly, feeling as well as seeing him nod his head but otherwise just enjoying the moment. She ruffled his blond locks with her free hand, and looked up.
She could almost swear that at the other side of the playground she could make out the form of Kushina Uzumaki, looking much the same she did before her pregnancy. Mikoto would never forget her best friend. That bright long red hair, those turquoise eyes, that pale skin or that soft smile. Even the clothes she wore were the same as she remembered.
The spectre, for Mikoto felt that was what it was, smiled before mouthing a few words, a few simple words which held a great conviction and a great power.
'Look after my son.'
Mikoto smiled at her, and nodded.
Kushina's small smile morphed into her signature grin, and then she was gone. Mikoto had no idea that she was crying until she felt the tears flow down her cheeks. She reached up to wipe them away, all the while internally replying to her dead friend's request.
'I will my friend, I will.'
Four Years Later
Rays of sunshine seeped through the closed blinds, flashing over his features and forcing him from his slumber. Grimacing at the intrusion the boy rolled over, turning his back to the window and pulling his quilt over his head, once again attempting to allow the blissful darkness of sleep to take him.
He attempted to do this for a handful of moments, and then sighed when he saw what a wasted effort it was. There was no way he was going to get back to sleep now, not when he remembered how important today was.
He was graduating today.
The thought was followed by a honeyed female voice, calling to him and others at the foot of the stairs. "Sasuke, Midori, Naruto. Breakfast will be ready soon!"
Naruto yawned as he saw up in bed, right hand moving lazily to rub the sleep from his eyes as he looked around his room. Then the knowledge of today's events hit him and with it returned his boundless energy.
He was graduating today.
He was going to be placed on a Genin team today.
He was finally going to become a Ninja today
He made his way through the mess of his room, sidestepping strewn pieces of clothing, scrolls and gear towards his bedroom door and threw it open.
He launched himself into the corridor, looking over to the adjacent bathroom door and on down to see the sight of his early morning nemesis. Midori exploded from her own room, onyx eyes snapping to him and glimmering with determination. The seventeen year old Chunin was dressed in little more than an oversized t-shirt and a pair of boxers, long raven hair dishevelled by sleep.
Naruto rushed down the corridor, seeing his elder sister moving forward at that exact moment, fortune smiled upon him as he made it to their destination first, blurring into the bathroom and closing the door behind him barely a split second before his older sister could make it. Midori cried out in annoyance, slamming her fist into the door.
"Damn it Naruto let me in!"
"No way," Naruto called back, locking the door and already getting undressed. "I got here first!"
"Haven't you ever heard the term ladies first!"
"I have, and it doesn't count!"
There was an annoyed exhale of breathe, followed by a creaking sound which Naruto knew meant Sasuke was making his way from his own bedroom out into the world. He knew exactly what was going to happen. Midori was going to round on him and yell...
"Don't even think of going in there before me, got it!"
And Sasuke would shrug and utter, "Hn."
Then Midori would turn back to the door and say, "You have five minutes Blondie, then I'm breaking the door down!"
Anyone else would have called the threat trivial, but Naruto knew from experience that the seventeen year old could, and would, do it without a second thought. Good thing Auntie strengthened the door with seals after the last few dozen got broken down.
He knew that Aunt Mikoto also heard Midori's little rant, for her voice called up the stairs, firm and promising punishment. "Midori, break another door and I will bat your ears!"
And so continued the usual morning ritual of the house;
The next half hour was spent with the three of them getting washed, dressed and rushing downstairs for breakfast. Naruto and Sasuke exploded through the door, each rushing to their place on the table. Naruto was dressed in black pants with orange piping along the sides, a bright orange shirt with the Uzumaki swirling whirlpool emblazoned, a black jacket with orange trim and a pair of black sandals. Sasuke was wearing his usual long khaki shorts, a high collared blue jumper with the Uchiha symbol emblazoned on the back and black sandals. Both boys had their Shinobi gear on and ready for their first days as Genin.
Mikoto looked up at the clock and sighed. Ready for their first days as Genin if they ever made it in time to their last class, that is. She waited, watching as the boys wolfed down their food. Well Naruto wolfed it down, Sasuke tried to look dignified but was fairing little better. The matriarch didn't even need to say anything, for Midori entered the room, looked up at the clock, shook her head, sighed and waited a moment before barking out the orders.
"Hey, you two get your asses in gear or you're going to be late!"
Both boys glared at her for a moment, then looked up at the clock, then paled, and then exploded into action, grabbing their backpacks and rushing over to Mikoto. The Matriarch passed each of them their lunches and expertly stepped to the side as they rushed out the door. Naruto was in the lead, a piece of toast hanging from his mouth as he turned to Sasuke and shouted.
"Come on jerk, we're going to be late!"
"Shut up dobe!" Sasuke shot back, though there was no malice in either of them. This was just how they worked together. They were friends, brothers and rivals all wrapped up in one neat little package. Mikoto didn't complain about it too much. The rivalry was good for them.
"Bye Mom!" the two of them yelled as they rushed into the corridor and out the front door, leaving it open in their haste to leave.
"Take care," she called back lightly. "And close the door!"
"Were they born in a field?" Midori sighed as she took a seat, then she smiled up at her Aunt. "They're finally graduating huh?"
"Yes they are," Mikoto replied as she set two plates of breakfast for her and her niece before sitting down.
"Will they be alright?"
Mikoto laughed lightly at her niece's question. None of them had gotten used to the aftermath of the massacre, but over time bonds had formed, and the four of them had become a family. Mikoto loved all three of them dearly. She knew that Midori was the same, being overprotective of the two when they were younger and despite her rough exterior always tried to help both them and her. Naruto and Sasuke, though they always argued and fought, saw each other as brothers and that was more than Mikoto could have ever dreamed off.
"They'll be fine. They've got us, their friends and each other."
Authors note 1: That's a wrap, as they say. I must admit that this story may not have been one of my best, but I enjoyed working on it none the less. It certainly did take a while for me to do it. The first chapter was finished back in January. I got the original idea for the story when I listened to 'How to Save a Life' by The Fray, hence the title, and I may always consider that song the theme for this little tale. The idea had always been in my head though, from when I first saw that episode of Naruto dealing with the massacre all the way to that scene between Mikoto and Kushina before the Kyubi incident. I'm just glad I finally got it down on paper.
There might be a few short stories and one-shots based off this alternate version I have created, but there will be no multi-chapter stories and nothing concrete. I hope you all enjoyed this small story of mine, and to the rest of my viewers I will be moving back onto The Good Left Undone within the next few weeks after I have gotten my affairs back in order. I'm sitting in the house with a bad cough and a bit of a raw throat, not a nice thing I can tell you :(