Notes: Shout out to my bro for helping me come up with this idea. I'll be updating it slowly, but I pretty much have it all planned out so I hope you enjoy the ride.
This is rated T and the T is mostly for any violence that will inevitably happen. And maybe language. This story is and will continue to be gen. The only romance will be in side pairings, if that. I don't plan on writing any sex for this.
It was burning. Everything was burning.
Sakura cried out, her academy bag dropping to the ground beside her. Her house was on fire, big orange flames stretching toward the sky like a hungry demon.
Sakura rushed forward, only to be hauled back by a strong arm. She tried to struggle out of its grasp, but it wouldn't budge.
"Waterfall no Jutsu!" Someone yelled. A huge wave of water came crashing down on her house, drenching the fire in seconds.
Sakura stared. The one beautiful painted wood structure was now made of blackened husks. It crumbled under the weight of gravity before her eyes, toppling and collapsing.
"Harunos…. Yeah…. That's their daughter."
There was a crowd of neighbors surrounding her. Whoever was holding her still hadn't let go. Sakura could barely think.
"It was so fast…. Kitchen explosion…. I don't know…. Something wrong with the stove."
A group of ninja, ANBU she thought, were going through the remains now.
"I can't take her…. No I have two sons…. Training to be a ninja."
"I'm going to let go now." It was a soft male voice, but mostly expressionless. As if what had just happened didn't seem to affect him much.
Sakura was let go and just as quickly turned around so that her back was to what had once been her home. She looked up at the face of another ANBU. He wore a white mask. It looked kind of like a dog.
The ANBU knelt down to her level. "You're in shock right now," he told her. "They're bringing out your parents' bodies. No, don't look." He grabbed her chin before she could turn around. "You don't need to see that."
But she wanted to. She couldn't imagine… her parents were alive still. They had to be.
"I'm going to take you to a place. They'll take care of you." The ANBU seemed to hesitate. "I'm sorry."
Sakura said nothing. The ANBU didn't seem to expect any words.
She ended up at an all-girl's orphanage after that and for three months she stayed there. The matron refused to let her go back to the Academy, saying no self-respecting girl should waste her time playing at being a kunoichi. The other children left her alone, caught in their own troubles.
Sakura took to spending time at the park near the Academy, dreaming of practicing with kunai with the same sort of wistfulness she would dream that the fire was all a bad nightmare.
It had been three months. She could think it now. Her parents were dead. And she wasn't even allowed to throw herself into being a ninja to avoid realizing the consequences of their deaths.
Naruto looked away. His Academy sensei was still spitting out words, but he'd tuned them out minutes ago. He knew what the woman was saying anyway. It was always the same.
"You'll never be a ninja!" she said, bringing his attention back to her. "You're… you're just a monster in human skin. I want you out of my classroom."
"But—" Naruto began to protest.
"No!" She pointed to the door. "I refuse to deal with your antics anymore. I was willing to give you a chance, but you're just as horrible as they say. A clothed demon trying to play ninja."
"It was just a prank!"
"It was just a prank, he says. I bet you're happy that your prank will set back our village for months. Months where our proud nin will be unable to access their mission files. That is not just a prank. That is treason. Sabotage." She seemed to growl. "I know you did it on purpose."
"I didn't," Naruto said, except he had. He hadn't known that his paint explosion would destroy so much of the Mission Room, but he had set the trap.
"Out!" his sensei, his former sensei, screeched. "And don't come back!"
Naruto ran. He was ashamed to feel tears prickling at the corner of his eyes. He hadn't cried since he was five and the orphanage, the fourth and final orphanage, kicked him to the curb.
He just wanted to be recognized. To be seen as someone who could be a ninja just as much as the others. No one had discovered his prank, had they? Not until they triggered it.
But no, he always got in trouble. No matter what he did. No one had ever accepted him as just Naruto. Not even the old man, not really.
Naruto rubbed at his eyes. The back of his hand came back wet. He gave a little snort, but it turned into a sob.
He stumbled his way to the park next to the Academy. There was a grove in the back between two large trees that had so many kunai and shuriken marks in them it was surprising they were still alive. He went there, curling up against that scarred bark, and wept.
Sasuke was going to kill someone. Anyone. Everyone. He… he was still so weak. The one person he'd always loved and looked up to had murdered his family, the whole clan. His brother had killed their parents and Sasuke still didn't know why.
"Aniki," Sasuke muttered.
It had been four months since the massacre. The Hokage had told him to take a break from the Academy, to rest and recuperate.
He couldn't rest. In sleep, his nightmares plagued him. Nor could he recuperate. How could he, when his whole family was dead? With so many questions buzzing around his brain?
Sasuke left his house. There was still a stain in the living room from where his parents had died. He didn't look at it. He began to walk.
The Uchiha District was empty. A ghost town, he thought. If only there were actual ghosts. He wouldn't mind being haunted by his family, if only he could talk to them, see them again.
His feet took him outside the District on a familiar path. He walked it mindlessly. His mind was filled with images of his brother, eyes red with the Sharingan. He shook his head roughly, keeping his eyes tightly closed.
Except, he didn't stop walking. He collided with someone.
They both went down in a tangle of limbs. Sasuke's eyes flew open. "Sorry," he mumbled. He tried to detach himself from the… girl?
She had bright pink hair and wore a drab grey dress. Her eyes were sad, like his, but she smiled politely. "It's okay."
Sasuke stood and stepped back. The girl stood as well. They both looked at each other.
The girl opened her mouth, but then a sound reached Sasuke's ears. Someone was crying nearby. The girl obviously heard it too. She was already turning her head in the direction of the noise. She took a few hesitant steps toward it and then stopped. She looked back at him. "Should we…?"
Sasuke frowned. He shrugged, but something had him following the girl as she walked through the park to where the noise was coming from.
The source seemed to be a boy with bright blond hair. His head was buried in his arms. He sat up against a tree, mostly protected by another tree just in front of him. There was just enough room for Sasuke and the girl to join him.
Sasuke wouldn't have, except he thought maybe he recognized that boy. From a long distant memory of bright blue eyes. The boy had smiled at him, he remembered, but Sasuke's father had pulled him away and told him not to interact with the fellow child.
But Sasuke's father was dead.
The girl sat gently next to the boy. Sasuke took a seat across from him and waited.
"Hey, are you okay?" Sakura asked. She'd heard other children crying, of course. Every night she heard someone crying in the orphanage, but something about this was different. The sobs were shattered, little broken things.
The boy's crying had begun to die down the minute they'd entered his little grove and now he raised his head, looking first from her to the black-haired boy that had run into her earlier. He had bright eyes, but they were filled with so many shadows. He wiped at them, trying to get rid of the remains of his tears.
Sakura smiled in what she hoped was a comforting manner. She didn't know how to be comforting. No one had been so to her after the fire, not really.
"Who are you?" the blond-haired boy asked finally. His voice was scratchy and his tone suspicious.
"I'm Sakura," she said. She turned to the other boy.
He frowned, and then mumbled, "Sasuke."
"What's your name?" Sakura asked the blond-haired boy.
He frowned, just like Sasuke had. His eyes darted between the two of them. Finally, he sighed. "My name's Naruto."
"Nice to meet you, Naruto, Sasuke," Sakura said. She knew politeness went a long way. Her dad had always told her that, and it seemed to work with the workers at the orphanage.
Not the matron though. No amount of politeness had made her bend on her no-ninja-stuff rule.
Neither boy answered her. Sakura looked down at her hands.
Naruto coughed. "I… did you guys come from the Academy?" he asked.
"No," Sasuke said.
"I'm not allowed," Sakura said.
"Your parents don't want you to be a ninja?" There was something strange in Naruto's voice. Sakura wished she could recognize it.
"My parents are dead," she said. "They died a few months ago." She blinked away the tears that sparked at the mention. "I used to go to the Academy, but the matron at my orphanage won't let me."
"Me too," Sasuke offered. He seemed hesitant to add anything, but when neither Sakura nor Naruto said anything, he went on. "My parents died a few month ago. And the rest of my family." He rubbed his own eyes. "The Hokage said I had to rest before I could go back."
"Uchiha," Naruto muttered.
Sakura blinked. She remembered hearing about the Uchiha Clan being murdered. She had still been at the Academy then and she'd overheard some of her classmates talking about it. Not to her… she'd never had any friends at the Academy. They all made fun of her for her big forehead.
"Yeah," Sasuke said. He looked angry.
Naruto flinched away from it and Sakura almost reached out.
"What about you?" Sakura asked then. "Your parents…?"
"They're dead too," Naruto said. "I think anyway." He shrugged. "I don't remember them." He bit his bottom lip, not looking at either of them. "My sensei just kicked me out of the Academy. That's why I was crying."
"Why?" Sakura asked.
"'Cause I did something stupid."
Sakura exchanged a glance with Sasuke. They realized what they were doing and both looked away. Sakura felt… strange.
"We're all orphans," she said.
"Orphaned ninja," Sasuke said.
Sakura frowned. "I want to be… but my matron said."
"Don't listen to her," Naruto said. "You don't need to live in an orphanage. I've been living by myself since I was five."
"Really?" Sakura blinked. "What about you, Sasuke? Do you live in an orphanage?"
Sasuke shook his head.
Sakura leaned back against the tree, thinking. If she left the orphanage, she could enroll herself back in the Academy for the new school year in a few months. She could train to be a ninja again, like her parents had supported her doing.
She thought of the ANBU who'd cast the water jutsu on her burning house. If she'd known how to do jutsu like that, maybe she could have stopped the fire sooner. Maybe she could have saved her parents.
It was too late for them, but not for others who could use her help.
"I want to be a ninja," she said. "So I can save people. So I can stop other kids from becoming orphans like us."
"I want to be Hokage," Naruto offered.
"Only the strongest, smartest ninja can be Hokage," Sasuke said.
"Well I will be!" Naruto huffed.
"I'm sure you can," Sakura offered. "You just need to work hard." She paused. "But isn't it just fine being a ninja of the Leaf?"
Naruto shook his head. "I wanna be recognized," he mumbled. "I want the village to like me."
Sakura didn't know what to say to that.
"I want to get stronger," Sasuke said. He didn't say more.
Something occurred to Sakura then. She didn't know why… except that they were all orphans together. "What if," she started. "What if we all lived together?" She went on before the boys could say anything. "I mean, we could split the chores and the cooking and stuff, and we could train together! Help each other get stronger."
Naruto looked stunned. His eyes were wide open, his mouth agape.
"How would that help me?" Sasuke said. "I do fine by myself." He sounded almost defensive.
"I'm sure you do," Sakura said. "I just think… training is easier in a group, isn't it?"
Naruto nodded. "Yeah. 'Cause you can't spar by yourself."
"And if we work hard enough, when the new Academy year starts up again then maybe we can convince a sensei to take us all," Sakura added quickly.
Sasuke was still frowning, but he nodded slowly. "If we took turns cooking, then the other two could train while on their off-nights."
"I'll make ramen!" Naruto offered. "I'm good at that."
"We need to have healthier food then ramen." Sakura thought about that lesson from when she'd still been at the Academy. "Grains are filling, but they're not very nutritious. You need vegetables for fiber and meat for protein to grow stronger."
Sasuke was nodding along with her. Naruto's face fell. "No one ever sells me veggies or meat. Not even fish."
"Why?" Now Sasuke looked shocked. "People are always helping me shop."
Sakura had never shopped for food. The orphanage provided food for them and before her mom had always gone while she was at the Academy.
Naruto shrugged. "People don't like me." He looked at his hands. "If you guys don't want me to live with you... I understand."
"Why don't people like you?" Sakura pressed.
"I don't know. They never have." Naruto scratched at his cheeks. Sakura noticed that he had whisker-like scars and wondered what they were from.
"My father didn't," Sasuke said. "He didn't say why. Just said you were dangerous."
Naruto looked crestfallen. Sakura looked at Sasuke. "Well, dangerous is good, isn't it?" She clasped her hands together tightly. "Good ninja are always dangerous."
"To their enemies," Sasuke said, but there was something else in his eyes. "They're not supposed to be to their friends. Family."
"We're friends, though," Sakura declared. Naruto looked up and Sasuke blinked. "Right?"
"I've never had a friend before," Naruto whispered.
Sasuke looked away. Sakura smiled hesitantly. "Me neither. You can be my first. Both of you."
"Two friends?" Naruto smiled.
"What do you say, Sasuke?"
Sasuke slowly nodded. "So we aren't dangerous to each other," he said. "If… if we're ever not friends anymore you have to say. Before you do anything, you have to warn me. Us."
"It's a promise," Sakura said. She stuck her pinky out. "We'll swear on it."
Naruto linked his pinky with hers. Sasuke's joined them after a moment.
Sakura stared down at their three pinkies together. "Okay," she whispered. "Friends."
"Friends," Naruto said.
"Friends," Sasuke repeated softly.
"Why is the Uchiha boy with the demon child?" Ferret asked.
"Don't call him that," Dog said.
"Well he is."
"He's a child."
Ferret looked away. "Should we do something?"
"I'll report it to the Hokage," Dog said. "You're relieved."
Ferret faded away. Dog continued to watch the three children who were now walking together toward the Uchiha district. He crept closer so he could hear them.
"My house is the best choice," Sasuke said.
"I don't want to live in the place where your family died," the pink-haired girl, Sakura Haruno he remembered, told him. "Doesn't that hurt?"
"But my apartment isn't big enough," Naruto said.
"What about a different house?" Sakura pressed.
"We could live somewhere else in the District," Sasuke said after a moment. "I remember a house no one lived in."
Sasuke shrugged. "It's just been abandoned, I don't know. I think my cousin was going to move in when he got married, but…."
"Right," Sakura said. "Well, if no one lived in it, then no one died in it."
Sasuke nodded. Naruto bounced. "Let's check it out!"
Dog stopped following them. He had all the information he needed.
He had to wonder what the Hokage would do about this. The Council wouldn't be happy if they found out that Sasuke and Naruto were living together. And with a girl as well. That would turn some heads.
But a part of Dog thought that maybe it would be a good thing. He remembered after his father died. He'd only been five at the time, but he'd lived alone, until he graduated from the Academy and his sensei had taken him on.
His sensei had been appalled.
"You shouldn't be alone at a time like this," he'd said. "No child should be left alone after the death of their family."
The memory sparked a twinge of guilt in Dog's chest, but he brutally pushed it aside. Beside, the boy wasn't alone now, was he? So long as the Hokage didn't force the three to separate, that was.
Sighing to himself, Dog went to go report.