Disclaimer: No I don't own Naruto, no I don't have million dollars, no I don't have the million dollar library room I wish I did. Any other questions?
A small child shivered violently, huddled against the chill of the late night wind and clutching a tattered blanket close. He was small, not older than three or four perhaps, with golden blonde hair and clear blue eyes that, gazing out in the dark, seeming to glow with an almost ethereal quality in their depths. Peeking out from beneath the folds of the rag, those eyes stared, unwavering, at a building across the street, the tattered sign above it swaying in the wind reading Orphanage.
The gaze held an almost reverent respect towards the decrepit structure; glowing with a sort of childish wonder at it, as if it held every treasure that could ever be imagined within its walls. A dream that, if caught, would bring him everything he had ever wanted. And for this child, it might as well have.
But at the same time, within the center of the eye where the hopeful sky blue cut sharply to black, a deep, loathsome fear took hold, a constant consciousness to the hope around it that only despair waited them through that door. And for this child, it did.
But setting aside the glamour of the mind over it, the house, despite the even worse condition of the buildings around it, seemed quite well kept. A warm fire lit the windows, and laughter rose and fell, bouncing off the walls joyfully inside the home, but then echoing hollowly in the streets.
A small nose jutted outside the blanket, inhaling deeply the smell of food wafting from the building across the street, eyes closing momentarily in ecstasy. It smelled wonderful, like fresh bread and soup, with his favorite dish-the small boy recoiled violently. He screwed his eyes shut and curled in on himself; as if he were afraid someone had spotted his breaking of a sacred rule and was going to punish him for it.
When the, now natural, reaction passed, the boy lifted his head once more, and with a pained acceptance evident this time, resumed his unwavering gaze at the building once more.
He probably wouldn't be getting any of that dinner tonight, not if he wanted the ugly matron to let him back in tomorrow morning like she normally did. If he walked back in there now she'd probably whack him on the head with the broom and toss him out again like she had that morning. He had tried it before with little success, even attempting to sneak back in through a window of a room he had thought empty. The occupant of the obviously not empty room had screamed at the stranger climbing through her window, and to make it short, Naruto had ended up right back where he had been on the street, possibly with a larger bruise than before.
Still, he let his eyes linger longingly on the orphanage door, almost hoping that the matron, whether she was ugly or not, would open the door and invite him in with a smile. The matron to him was ugly, yes, but she was a lot prettier when she smiled, most of the other kids would tug on her skirt and tell her so and she would smile even bigger. But he knew she wouldn't, not for him anyway. She never did. Maybe she didn't want him to see her pretty, was that it? Or maybe he did something wrong? That's what the other kids always said anyways, that the matron didn't like him cause he was a bad kid.
Naruto scowled. He wasn't a bad kid at all. He tried everything to prove that he wasn't. At first he had tried to help clean up the other kids' plates after meals, but she would just swat him away and yell at him for stealing. After that he watched what a girl named Ten Ten did. She was the matron's favorite and would always clean and wash things and pick up the toys. He watched, and then the next day copied her exactly. But the matron didn't like that either.
So he tried doing something that he saw other boys doing. Maybe only girls were supposed to do some things and boys others and that's why the matron got mad at him. He went to weed the small garden she kept out back like he had seen a few older boys doing but she really, really must have not liked that. She tossed him out today in the rain after all.
His stomach growled hungrily and Naruto clutched at it, glancing around the alley for any trashcans that might have some food left over in them. There weren't any. He had never gone without food for this long before. Sure some of his meals had been scarce, but he was always resourceful and more often than not was able to get a good meal off of the old man that sometimes came to visit him.
With a sudden thought, Naruto stood up and poked his head back out to the street and caught sight of the Hokage tower standing tall over the rest of the city, a monument to all; if he squinted he could make out a faint yellow light coming from the highest window. He perked up immediately and smiled widely. The old man there was really nice about treating him for food, and the orphanage wasn't too far a walk from where the tower was. He glanced back at the orphanage once, before he nodded and prepared to leave his vigil.
He carefully folded the thin cotton blanket and tucked it into a small hollow in the stonework of the alley where he kept most of his few items. He had started putting his precious things here when he came to his room one day, not too long ago, to find most of his things torn up or gone. Luckily he had taken his small favorite toy fox he had found in a trashcan with him that day, so it was spared an untimely end. In the hole were the fox, his blanket, an extra pair of clothes (meaning a tattered t-shirt and the pants he had found in another kid's room), and a couple ramen coupons for his favorite food stand.
Hopping back up, Naruto jogged out of the alley and made his way towards the tower. There weren't many people out on the streets, seeing as it was pretty late at night, just a few shop owners and the men heading for the bars with nothing better to do. He avoided those with a cautious look and a wide berth. Those men, some ninja, were never good to deal with at night and he knew that from experience.
Having encountered, seemingly every type of bad man out there, and quite a few types of bad women which in his opinion were worse, Naruto was, even at his early age, quite good at reading people and it became somewhat of a habit of his, a first reaction to new people. So he gave those people there room, and scanned the street for the first back alley he could find and dove into it.
He knew where most of the small 'streets' behind streets were; knew every twist and turn of a slim dirt path that none but cats used. He used these to get around faster, and more importantly, stay out of sight. There weren't any people back there, aside from the occasional funny dressed ninja, and he even made a game out of exploring it. He made it into a fun adventure, memorizing as many of the shortcuts as he could. He didn't know why, only that they would surely be useful for something someday.
Ducking down one last alley before the tower, Naruto turned the corner sharply and-
"Oomph!" The air was knocked out of him and Naruto fell back onto the cobbled street with a thud, blinking his vision back after the collision.
A soft, startled voice spoke, "Oh dear, I'm so sorry I didn't see you there!" A woman's small hand touched his head, and he looked up. She was very pretty, he decided, with long blonde hair and kind blue eyes. Much prettier and definitely nicer than the matron cause she was smiling at him. No one ever smiled at him, so he smiled back. Maybe he wasn't a bad kid after all.
But almost as if she was shocked, he felt her hand flinch back from his head violently and her face twisted up. His smile fell fast. She wasn't very pretty anymore.
The woman drew herself away from him, her face still warped abnormally, holding her hand close. She snapped harshly, "Watch where you're going next time," and left without another glance, her thudding footsteps sending water flying in all directions, including his.
For a minute Naruto just stared after her, watching until her slim back had disappeared around the corner. It hadn't taken long. And then, without warning, he felt tears sting his eyes, and he furiously wiped them away with his hand, instead biting his bottom lip so hard he drew blood.
Why was he crying, now of all times? She wasn't even that mean to him! He'd had people yell and scream at him before for doing fewer things than bumping into them. But the tears wouldn't stop flowing because this time, he'd actually thought someone would smile at him, pick him up, dust him off, and give him a warm hug and say everything was okay. He'd seen so many other parents do that and even in the orphanage the matron would smile and look pretty when soothing another kid. And other pretty mom's would come and take a kid home to be their mommy. Why couldn't he have a pretty mommy?
Now sobbing, Naruto didn't get back up. Instead he forgot all about his empty stomach, and the Hokage, and the pretty blonde woman who he wished was his mother. He crawled back into the alley, and without his threadbare blanket this time, cried himself to sleep on the ground.
When Naruto opened his eyes, it was still dark with the moon hanging low in the sky. Rubbing the sleep away and yawning wide, he glanced around curiously. It wasn't morning yet, so why had he woken up?
Clattering outside the alley told him why. Awake and now scrambling for the shadows, Naruto hid himself the best he could, his hand slapped over his mouth trying to muffle his own breathing.
Three adults, all men and all apparently drunk, were stumbling down the street. One of the men even still had a bottle clutched in his fist and was waving and gesturing wildly to his companions with it, receiving hoots of laughter in return. Each of the men had a look of a civilian, no headbands or weapon pouches in sight, though even if they were ninja they wouldn't go flaunting it. Lots of bars tended not to let shinobi get drunk there, things tended to get destroyed when they did.
Naruto's heart beat jumped when one of the men stumbled, tripping over his feet closer to his hiding place, before falling flat on his face. The other civilians roared in laughter, pointing at the fallen man, who glared hatefully at the others. The one man, the one with the bottle chuckled, moved to help his friend up. Naruto felt his body freeze when the man's eyes somehow met his own in the darkness. They were a dulled over shade of brown, no doubt from the alcohol, but Naruto could still see something…malicious in them that terrified him.
"Well wha's thish we got here," the man slurred heavily drunk. Ignoring his friend, he moved closer to the shadow even as Naruto scrambled back. The boy darted for the other end of the alley but a hand shot out, surprisingly firm, and gripped the scruff of his shirt pulling him back and into the light of the street. "Oh-ho, we gots a demon on our hands boys," he grinned, his mouth had two missing teeth, and the rest were rotted.
Naruto flinched away from the hot breath on the back of his neck and the shouts of laughter from the other drunks. With a quick glance at the man with his shirt fisted in his hands, Naruto felt his breath hitch at a terrifying revelation. He had just become these guys' entertainment for the night.
So he fought. Clawing, biting, and scratching at anything and everything within in his reach, he wrenched away as hard as he could from his captor's grasp. He wasn't stupid, at least not in the traditional sense. He just had experience. He knew what was going to happen if he stayed here long enough, or even for just a little; he wasn't planning on sticking around though.
His efforts were rewarded when the man swore loudly and practically flung him away in a fury. "Tha' demon! He clawed me in the face! Get him!"
Naruto didn't need any more encouragement to book it as fast as he could. Not daring to even glance behind him, he sprang up like a cat and tore through the other drunks blocking the alley, diving back into the shadows. Both men, swung for him, but in their inhibited state their efforts weren't more than simply waving their arms back and forth a full two feet from anywhere Naruto might have been.
He allowed a small childish grin to slip out as he heard the rest of the men swear violently. Most kids got their entertainment from playing with dolls, toys, or other kids. His entertainment came from evading swearing drunks trying to do who-knows-what to him. Even as young as he was he could tell there was something definitely wrong with the situation, not that it stopped him from enjoying it. Nothing made him feel quite as accomplished as getting away with something, whatever it was he had supposedly done.
Blinding pain shot into the back of his head, and Naruto cried out, tumbling forward over his own feet and slamming into the alley floor. For what felt like minutes, his world seemed disjointed, swirling and spinning and even when he cracked his eyes open, the ground seemed to move and shake in its own accord. Next to him, the bottle the leader had been holding rolled and bumped up next to his leg.
"Ha! Ya' nailed him right in tha' head!" The world righted itself abruptly and any amusement Naruto felt at escaping vanished, cold terror replacing it.
"Not so fast ya little demon," the hand shot out, once again surprisingly firm, and gripped his shirt as he tried to run. Naruto tried desperately to wriggle away once more, but the man wouldn't let go a second time. "Stop squirming!" he growled. "Stop or I'm going to bash your head in harder this time!" Naruto almost stopped right then and there. It was always better for him to just listen to the man instead, right? But he was still good at reading people, and one glance into those malicious brown eyes told him that he was going to have his head bashed in either way.
"Damn it brat!" Naruto's eyes widened when he was thrown to the ground for a second time. He hadn't expected it to actually work! His hopes rose and he moved to run the other direction but stopped short. It was blocked by both of the other men. Neither one looked nearly as drunk now as they had been before. They looked cruelly focused instead. He was trapped.
Whimpering, Naruto did the only thing he could think of and curled in on himself; pressing both hands over his ears and squeezed his eyes shut. What did he do?
"That's right brat. Now you're gonna ge-"A dull thud echoed after the silence that abruptly cut off the man's rant, two more shortly following after it.
Naruto didn't move though, remaining as still as a statue, waiting for the inevitable sting of a hit. When none came, he opened his eyes slightly and was immediately confronted with a stark white mask, painted with lines a swirls, glowing eerily in the moonlight.
He gasped and scrambled back away from the stranger as fast as he could, and even when his back hit the wall he still pressed himself up against it as much as possible. In the place of three drunks were three ninja. He considered them so much worse in every way than the civilians.
Two of them stood over his previous attackers, not even looking at him. He felt a little more secure at that. If they weren't paying attention to him, he could probably get away. But his attention focused once again on the one closest to him that had frozen when he moved away.
He observed the ninja wearily, eyes darting back and forth between the three of them and the three unconscious bodies that, with widening realization, now were crumpled on the ground. Had these ninja's…saved him?
The thought was so foreign that it took him a moment to even register that it might be possible. He turned the idea around in his head, examining, poking and prodding at it like it was a curious bug. Someone had actually wanted to help him?
The thought fled from him as soon as he spotted movement from the ninja closest to him. The hand reached out again for him, apparently trying to grab him once more. Naruto pressed farther away from him and glared hatefully at the ninja. No one was going to grab him again! So he did the first thing that came to his still shocked and terrified mind.
He hissed at the ANBU agent.
Deer recoiled in shock, snatching her hand back from the hissing child. That was not what she had expected at all. What she had expected was for the kid to be scared, yes, but once he realized what had happened, to run crying into the arms of his saviors. What she had gotten was a kid that fled from her like she was a plague, and glared and hissed at her. It was not normal.
"Hey Deer," she turned to her teammate, Lion, who was busy still tying up the civilians, "the kid okay?"
She hesitated, debating her answer. "Physically, the child is fine."
"Physically, Deer?" She could practically see Lion raising his eyebrows behind his mask. "Okay then what about mentally?"
"Mentally, the child doesn't seem to realize that he's no longer in danger. He just…hissed at me."
"He hissed? Well that's a new one." Lion sighed and waved her on. "Just grab him, Deer. He's probably still in shock from what happened. We'll get him to a hospital and he'll be fine."
Deer nodded, but still she wavered. She didn't like the look of the small child. It was the look of a beaten and cornered animal, ready to either bolt or tear you to pieces at the slightest nudge. Forget the innocence of a child that should be there, that look wasn't even remotely human. The luminescent blue orbs were darting back and forth from the where the drunks had been slammed to the ground, to her ANBU unit, glaring, but still wide with terror. The overly large canines that he was baring didn't help the look either.
She must've been too slow in approaching the kid again. "Deer," her unit leader, Dog, was walking over, not to her, but to the kid instead. "Let me take care of this, you go help Lion." She knew Dog was fairly certain Lion didn't need any help, but she somewhat ashamedly jumped at the open opportunity.
"Yes sir," she quickly replied and walked back over to where the other ANBU was standing.
Lion watched as she approached, grinning slightly. She could tell from how his mask was tilted on his jaw. "So, got scared away by a little kid, huh Deer?"
She felt her cheeks burn, thankfully hidden behind her namesake mask. "No, Dog-sempai simply wanted to see to the Uzumaki boy himself. He suggested that I come and assist you." She meant for it to be cool reply, but instead it came out as snappish and defensive despite her attempts.
Lion just chuckled though, and held out his hands in the universal sign of placation. "Easy there Deer, I was just messing with you. Honesty I don't blame you for not wanting to get near the kid again. He was pretty creepy after all."
She didn't comment. Tugging the ropes probably a bit too tight than necessary, eliciting a groan from one of the drunks in the process, Deer completely ignored her partner's presence until the man gave a long, low whistle of appreciation.
"Damn, who knew sempai was so good with kids, eh? The kid isn't even flinching."
Deer turned and, just like Lion had said, Dog-sempai was slowly walking towards them, the small blonde child cradled in his arms with his head buried into the ANBU captain's chest. To say she was a little more than surprised would be an understatement. Her sempai never got along with anyone (as far as she knew anyway) and with the man's aloof and strict attitude, she had figured he wouldn't have much patience for kids either or likewise.
When Dog stopped in front of them, one small blue eye peeked out from under matted blonde hair for a single moment, maybe curious as to why they had stopped she guessed. Giving her and Lion one suspicious sweep, the boy tucked his head back in to ignore them and the world once more.
Dog-sempai didn't seem to notice. "I'm going to take Naruto to the hospital. He seems to have some blood on the back of his head though that you missed, Deer," his tone wasn't accusing, just matter-of-fact. "I want the two of you to take these civilians to ANBU headquarters. They'll be dealt with like usual." It went unsaid that the 'usual' meant capital punishment.
"And don't bother with a report. I'll go see the Hokage after I'm finished at the hospital." Kakashi turned and walked away without another word. But just as the two were about to vanish out of sight, Deer could've sworn she saw a small hand reach up to grasp a handful of silver hair and tug at it, sparkling blue eyes examining it curiously. Dog-sempai disregarded it and the next second they were gone.
"What a weird kid." Apparently Lion had been watching it too and came to the same conclusion. Deer just hummed in agreement before turning back. The other ANBU already had two of the civilians dropped over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes, ready and waiting to go.
"Honestly though, Deer, I don't blame you for not wanting to get close to that kid again," he commented lightly, walking up next to her when she had her load draped over her shoulder. "I wouldn't have either. Not that it has anything to do with that, but you know that look was just…" He trailed off and she could feel his gaze slip sideways to her.
He didn't need to finish, Deer knew what he meant. That look was just wrong, especially on a child. She glanced back in the direction the duo had taken and gave a heavy sigh.
If she was lucky, she'd never have to deal with the strange Uzumaki boy again. She didn't know how Dog-sempai did it, but she could never get through to a child with a look like that, she wasn't good with evnen normal children, forget emotionally imbalanced ones.
a/No, she'd request first thing in the morning to be taken out of ANBU. She'd been in it for almost three years now, the average time for most. That meant no more guard duty for the Kyuubi Jinchuriki. She'd never cross paths with him again.
A/N: So I know I have a ton of other stories in progress, emphasis on the progress part, but I'm working on them! I'm just having ssues with my inner muse and hat I like to call my lack of writing ability so please be patient and I'll try to at least update one of them soon! Thanks!
And please review with ideas or suggestions or to even say 'Hey, this story sucks!' (if you take this seriously and do that, it will immediatly be taken and used sa fuel to burn all of my school wrk from this year). If any of you are interested in beta-ing(?) any of my stories feel free to contact me!