Notes: Huge timeskips ahead. Don't get upset that I'm brushing over big chunks of time. I'm not planning on making this story SUPER long so I'll be timeskipping over several months at a time. After all, you guys want to get to when the kids are genin eventually, right?

For those that are questioning the OOC nature of the characters (especially Sasuke) I would like to remind you that the avenge-filled Sasuke we see in canon is twelve, not eight. I imagine it took a few years of being left alone to stew over Itachi and his family before he got to the point where he hated even the thought of his brother. He's still uncomfortable thinking about Itachi, but he's more confused that hate filled at this point.

Thanks to those who followed, favorited, and reviewed the first chapter. I don't plan on any of the rest of them being as short as that one was.

Dog recounted his findings in a monotone, disinterested voice. When he was done, he stood at attention and waited.

The Hokage puffed at his pipe in contemplation.

"Permission to de-mask, Hokage-sama?" Dog asked.

"Permission granted."

Dog pulled away his mask, revealing bright silver hair and one dark eye. He quickly moved his Leaf headband up from his neck to his head, covering his bright red eye.

Sarutobi watched him for a moment. "What are your thoughts on this, Kakashi?"

"I wish to reserve judgment," Kakashi said carefully. "This arrangement could be beneficial for all three of them."

"Three of them," Sarutobi murmured. "What did you say the girl's name was again?"

"Sakura Haruno. Her parents were killed in a house fire."

"An accident?"

"It's believed so. They were civilians and had no discernable enemies."

Sarutobi nodded. "So they've chosen a house in the Uchiha District."


Sarutobi continued to visibly think. Kakashi waited. The Hokage nodded after a moment. "Who else knows about this?"

"Ferret knows that the three were talking, but not that they are now living together."

"I'll contact him and make sure he keeps quiet. For now, this will stay between us. I don't want the Council getting word of it. Not until we can get a better grasp on the situation."

"Yes, Hokage-sama."

"Kakashi," Sarutobi said. "I know you've been considering resignation for the ANBU."

Kakashi bowed his head. Itachi had been his prodigy. He'd trained the boy personally as soon as he'd joined the ANBU. When Itachi had made captain, Kakashi had felt so proud.

Barely a month after, the thirteen-year-old had killed all the Uchiha, save his little brother. Kakashi had begun thinking of hanging up his mask the day after.

Sarutobi puffed his pipe. "You will have one final mission. Upon completion of that mission, you will become a regular jounin, and if you so wish it you will be able to take on a genin team."

Kakashi narrowed his eyes. He had a feeling where this was going. "I don't want a genin team."

"You might change your mind," Sarutobi said easily. "You are to watch over the three children. Report back to me once a month on their progress. Help keep eyes off them as long as you can."

"Are they to know of my presence?" Kakashi had never been on Naruto's ANBU protection squad, but he'd heard rumors of the boy's ability to loose his guard in the bustle of Konaha like an expert.

Sarutobi considered him. "I'll leave that to your discretion. Do you accept this mission?"

Kakashi replaced his mask over his face. He bowed.

Sarutobi smiled. "Good."


The house they chose was one of the smaller of the District. It sat on the outskirts and had a layer of dust over the floors, though the furniture was all covered in plain white sheets.

Sasuke had never been in it before. It wasn't that different from his main family house, though already he felt himself relaxing at the fact that there weren't any bloodstains on the floors or walls.

"Front door opens to the living room," Sakura murmured. "Kitchen's to the left there. I hope there's nothing in the fridge, that would stink."

"How long has it been since someone lived here?" Naruto asked, wrinkling his nose at the dust.

Sasuke shrugged. "I've never known anyone living in it."

"Let's see what other rooms there are," Sakura said. They walked past the kitchen down the hall.

"What's this?" Naruto asked, looking in the first door to the right.

"Too small to be a bedroom," Sakura said.

"Probably a study. See, there's a desk," Sasuke said. "And bookshelves."

"Oh, we can gather training scrolls here." Sakura clasped her hands. "Sasuke, do you think we can go through the other houses to find some?"

Sasuke nodded. It wasn't like anyone was using them anymore. He noticed Naruto looked down. "What?"

Naruto shrugged, scuffing his toe on the floor. "Nothing."

"There's obviously something," Sakura said. "Come on, we're friends now."

Naruto seemed to brighten a bit at the reminder. Sasuke felt his own chest tighten. Friends… he'd never really had any other than his brother.

Not that his brother was… well. Naruto and Sakura had promised they would tell him if they weren't going to be friends anymore. So Sasuke would have warning if they were going to do something like his brother had.

Sasuke wished he'd had a hint about what Itachi was planning. Everything had been so normal until that night. He rubbed his eyes.

"I don't know how to read training scrolls," Naruto murmured, bringing Sasuke back to the present.

"Why not?" Sakura asked. "They're just like books. And they have diagrams."

"The diagrams are good," Naruto said. "I just… don't know how to read?"

"Aren't you our age?" Sasuke demanded. "How do you not know how to read?" He'd known how since he was three.

"I'm eight!" Naruto said. "But no one ever taught me how."

"Not even at the Academy?" Now Sakura looked upset.

Naruto shook his head.


Sasuke looked at Sakura, kind of stunned. His mother had been the one to teach him, and his brother had helped him practice. But Naruto hadn't ever had a family, had he? From the look on Sakura's face, she was thinking the same thing.

"We'll teach you," Sakura said. "Reading is important. How else can you know what's on mission scrolls and stuff."

"It's not that hard," Sasuke added.

Naruto grinned. "Okay!"

Sasuke didn't get why his father had said Naruto was dangerous. So far the fellow boy seemed kind of dumb, if cheerful most of the time. But he could be useful as a sparring partner, so Sasuke reminded himself to reserve judgment. He didn't want to be the kind of person who judged people by what they seemed like on the outside. After all, his brother had seemed loving and caring.

Across from the study was a bathroom. It attached to a bedroom on the left of it. Across from that bedroom was another bedroom, which had a shared bathroom with another bedroom. At the end of the hall was the largest bedroom with it's own bathroom.

"Sasuke should live in that one," Sakura said. "Because he owns the house."

Sasuke shook his head. It was too big and reminded him of his parents' room. "I don't want to."

Sakura frowned, but Naruto seemed to understand. "Too much space means more room to throw things. And then stuff piles up and it gets messy. That's bad."

Sasuke pointed to the small bedroom with its own bathroom. "Sakura should have that one, 'cause she's a girl and needs her own bathroom."

"And Sasuke and I can share the bathroom here." Naruto said. "Do you want that bedroom or this one?"

Sasuke ended up choosing the bedroom closest to the master bedroom, while Naruto chose the one opposite of Sakura's room.

"Okay," Sakura said. They wandered back to the living room. "Where does this door go to?" She pointed to a door behind the couch, which ran parallel to the hallway.

They opened it and stepped through. Sasuke looked around. They were in a large room. There were scorch marks on the walls and training dummies littered with kunai marks. In the corner was a dusty shelf.

"Hey, there's kunai and shuriken and swords and stuff!" Naruto called, going over to the shelf. He picked one up and poked the end. "Ouch! They're still sharp."

"I've never used anything but practice kunai," Sakura said.

"Practice kunai don't help anything," Sasuke said. He remembered when his father had said that. "They have different weight and they don't stick into targets as easily."

"We can practice with these," Naruto said. He was sucking on his thumb.

"Let me see that," Sakura said, holding out her hand for his.

Naruto took his finger out of his mouth. "It's fine. It already healed."

Sasuke stared. Indeed, the wound had scarred over. Before his and Sakura's eyes the scar seemed to fade away.

"Woah," Sakura said. "How did you do that?"

Naruto shrugged. "I always heal fast."

"That must be a kekkai genkai," Sasuke said. "What's your last name?"


"I've never heard of an Uzumaki clan." Sasuke frowned.

"What are kekkai genkai?" Sakura asked.

"Clan abilities," Sasuke told her. Naruto seemed to be listening too. "The Hyuuga have their Byakugan." He'd had to learn all about the clans of Konaha when he was younger. "The Inuzuka Clan has a connection to ninken, you know ninja dogs. And the Aburame have some bug ability."

"Gross." Sakura shuddered.

"Bugs aren't gross! They're cool!" Naruto said.

"What do the Uchiha have?"

"The Sharingan."

"What's that?"

Sasuke frowned. "It's red eyes, I guess. It can read chakra and copy jutsu."

"Can you show us?" Sakura asked.

Sasuke shook his head. "I don't have it yet."

"How do you get it?"

"You just develop it, I guess."

"We can help you!" Naruto said. "I bet there's a scroll or something that explains how."

Sakura nodded. Sasuke felt himself smile. "Okay," he agreed.

"So Naruto's healing is probably a clan ability," Sakura said. "It's useful, anyway." She sighed. "My parents were civilians. I don't have a kekkai genkai."

Sasuke didn't know what to say. Naruto, however, patted Sakura on the arm. "That's okay, Sakura-chan. You can still be a good ninja without a kekkai thingy. You just have to find what you're good at."

Sakura perked up and nodded. "Right. I just have to work hard."


Naruto spent the rest of the afternoon helping Sakura clean their new house while Sasuke went around and gathered scrolls from the other houses in the Uchiha District. Sakura didn't seem to know the difference between the different cleaning tools they found under the sink so Naruto had to show her, but she caught on quickly.

By the time Sasuke returned from his final scroll trip, the house was mostly clean and all the sheets had been taken off the furniture and folded into the hall closet. Then, they all went to Sasuke's house to help him move his stuff to his new room.

"I don't think there were any pans or anything," Sakura said, looking around in Sasuke's old kitchen. "Should we take this stuff?"

Sasuke didn't seem to mind, so Naruto and Sakura took loads of pans, silverware, plates, cups, and anything else they could find in the kitchen, including any of the foodstuffs Sasuke had. Sasuke had piles of clothes in his arms, which all seemed the exact same dark blue or black with a red fan on the back. When Sakura asked about the red fan, he said it was his clan symbol.

"I don't have anything other than this dress," Sakura said. "All of my old clothes burned down."

"I don't really have anything either," Naruto said, so she wouldn't feel bad.

"Why not?" Sasuke asked. "Your house didn't catch fire, did it?"

Naruto shook his head. "No one will sell me anything. And I don't really have any money."

"What about the orphan fund?" Sakura asked. "I get to collect fifty ryou a week from the administration office at the bottom of the Hokage tower."

"Me too," Sasuke said. "At least 'til I become a genin. Then the Hokage said I can just use the Uchiha fortune."

Naruto didn't look at either of them. "Whenever I go, they always say they don't have any money for me," he mumbled.

"That's not fair!" Sakura exclaimed.

"That's stupid," Sasuke agreed.

Naruto shrugged. "I told you I wouldn't be good to live with."

"Don't say that. You're our friend now." Naruto looked up and smiled at Sakura. She looked determined. "Okay, Sasuke, if we pool our money together each week then we have a hundred ryou. I have about five hundred ryou saved because the orphanage provided food, so if we just make sure to use less than that to buy me and Naruto new clothes—"

"I don't need new clothes, I'm fine!" Naruto protested.

"Yes you do," Sasuke said. "You can't spar in what you're wearing. And you probably need ninja shoes and stuff. Beside, dark colors are the best because they help you blend in."


"Right," Sakura said. "So if we spend my savings, then we should still be fine using that hundred a week for groceries for all three of us, don't you think?" She looked uncertain. "I've never been food shopping before."

Sasuke nodded slowly. "I'll do that. People give me discounts a lot."

"I can't go shopping," Naruto said. "We'll get kicked out of stores."

Neither Sasuke nor Sakura seemed to completely believe him, but they nodded. "I'll get clothes for the both of us, and Sasuke can go get food. You go move all of your stuff from your apartment and we'll meet back here for dinner."

Sakura was kind of bossy, but she also seemed to be the only one who really knew what to do, so Naruto agreed readily, followed by Sasuke.

They split. Naruto headed to the old man's office first, because he didn't want him to get worried if he went to visit Naruto in his apartment and found him gone.

The old man was alone in his office. He looked up when Naruto came in. "Ah, Naruto, how are you?"

"Fine," Naruto said. He looked down. "Good, actually. I made some friends."

"Did you?"

Naruto nodded. "They're orphans like me. We all moved into a house together." He looked up, frowning. "And you can't stop me!"

Old Man Hokage chuckled. "I certainly won't. I think it's good that you have people to help you."

"We're all helping each other. That's the plan, see?"

"I see." The old man puffed his pipe. "What's this I hear about your Academy teacher kicking you out?"

"I'm sorry," Naruto said quickly. "I'll do better next time. If you let me and Sakura and Sasuke go to the Academy together. We'll work hard!"

The old man seemed to study him. "It's the beginning of March. The next Academy year starts in August."

"I know! We're going to train until then. Really hard."

"There's only one more sensei teaching your age group. And he doesn't particularly want to take you on. He hasn't been hearing good things."

Naruto felt panic overwhelm him for a second. He forced himself to calm down instead of screaming. This wasn't just about him, this was about Sakura and Sasuke too. "We can go up an age group. You said when you let me join the Academy that if I worked hard enough I could maybe graduate early. Well, me and Sakura and Sasuke will."

The old man tapped his fingers on his desk. "You'd have to work really hard. The age group above yours has already started on genjutsu, not just taijutsu and basic ninjustsu as you have." He paused. "Will you be ready to join them by August?"

"We'll be ready. I promise!"

"I'll enroll you three for next year, then, but if Tohru-sensei says that you aren't keeping up…."

"We will." Naruto was determined and he was sure once he told Sakura and Sasuke they would be too. "Thank you, ojii-san!"

Naruto left the Hokage's office and headed to his small apartment. He didn't own many things, but he made sure to grab his wallet, Gama-chan, and his bright orange jacket. He remembered what Sasuke said about blending in, but the jacket was warm and it had been the only one he could buy for cold weather. He also grabbed his pajamas and the cups of ramen he kept in his pantry. Even if they weren't healthy, they could still be a treat, right?

Even though he stopped to talk to the old man, Naruto still go back to his new house before Sakura or Sasuke. He put his meager belongings away and looked around. After a moment, he headed to the kitchen. Sasuke hadn't had too many groceries left, which was why he was out shopping, but there was still some bean sprouts and carrots and what looked like pork.

Well, Naruto could start dinner. He didn't know how to cook a whole lot, but he could improvise. He poured the noodles from his ramen cups into a pot and began to heat them in water. While the water was boiling, he cut up the bean sprouts, carrots, and pork into small chunks. He accidentally cut a bit of his finger as he works and he watched as the cut healed itself.

He'd never really considered his fast healing before, but if it was a kekkai genkai that meant that he got it from one of his parents. He smiled at the thought.

Sakura and Sasuke both got back at the same time. Sakura was carrying some of the groceries so Naruto figured they met up somewhere on the way.

"What are you doing?" Sasuke asked as they set the groceries down.

"Making dinner," Naruto said. "That's okay… right?"

"Thank you, Naruto," Sakura said. "I've never cooked anything, so you'll have to teach me."

"I use my okaa-san's cookbook a lot," Sasuke said. He pointed to where he'd set the book over on the side counter. "It tells you what to do."

"I can't read it," Naruto reminded them.

"Oh, right."

"That'll be the first thing we fix," Sakura said. "We can start tonight over dinner."

Naruto nodded. He continued to add the pork and vegetables to the noodles. Sasuke and Sakura put away the groceries. Naruto turned away from the pot as they finished. "Just a couple more minutes, I think."

"Here, tell me what you think about the clothes I found," Sakura said. "I had to guess your sizes."

She laid out her purchases on the couch. She got them both black ninja shoes. Naruto's fit fine, if a bit big. Sasuke said he'd grow into them.

There were both pants and shorts in black and tight shirts in black and dark orange. "I noticed you liked it," she said. "At least, I assumed."

"Orange's my favorite color!" Naruto proclaimed. "Thank you, Sakura."

Sakura smiled. "I didn't get you a jacket because it's getting warmer and I figured we'll probably all need to buy new clothes as we get older because we'll keep growing."

"I have a bunch of Uchiha stuff in all sizes," Sasuke said. "So I won't."

"Well, me and Naruto will. We can't wear stuff with the Uchiha symbol."

Sakura's own clothes seemed to come in black and dark red. She had several red skirts with black leggings and black shirts with dark red stripes, plus one pink tank top. "I still have a hundred ryou left," she said. "We should keep a savings box for any extra from the week."

They chose a small wooden box they'd found in the study and set it on top of the desk. Sakura put her money in it and Sasuke put the twenty ryou he had left from grocery shopping.

Over dinner, Naruto told Sakura and Sasuke about what the old man said.

"Wait, you're friends with the Hokage?" Sakura asked once he'd finished.

Naruto shrugged. "I think he knew my parents, but he won't tell me who they were."

"He should," Sasuke frowned. "I want to know more about the Uzumaki Clan."

"We can research it," Sakura said. "But first, we have to get Naruto reading so he can help us."

"And so he doesn't fail at the Academy," Sasuke said.

"We need to learn genjutsu too!" Naruto reminded them.

"We should brush up on our ninjustus and taijutsu also. I'm behind on both," Sakura said.

They finished eating and headed to the study. Sakura selected a scroll on chakra, because she said that she and Sasuke might as well review while they taught Naruto.

Reading was hard, Naruto thought, but it got easier the longer Sakura and Sasuke coached him. He started recognizing symbols. It helped that he already knew how to speak fine, so once they taught him what each symbol was pronounced like he could sort of sound it out. It meant he had an easier time reading aloud than not, but Sakura said progress was progress.

It took a week before Naruto felt any sort of confidence reading things by himself. He still occasionally asked Sasuke and Sakura what a symbol was, but he was improving every day. It was a nice feeling, to not feel so stupid.

They also spent a lot of time in the training room, as Sasuke dubbed it. Sasuke was the best at throwing kunai and shuriken. He wasn't as patient a teacher as Sakura, but he helped Naruto and Sakura on their grips and aim.

Naruto learned the proper method of throwing kunai much faster than he learned reading. Sakura still struggled with it a bit, but she worked hard on it while Naruto went back to practicing his reading.

Sasuke spent a lot of time reading through the E and D rank scrolls and setting things aside for them to work on so they wouldn't be behind at the Academy.

All in all, Naruto thought, having friends was pretty awesome.


Sakura was baking. She'd never baked before, but there was a recipe in Sasuke's mother's cookbook for a sort of meat pie and since it was her turn to cook dinner she was trying it out.

Naruto was sitting at the kitchen table reading aloud from the Academy rules. Sasuke was carefully sharpening all the kunai and shuriken at the table next to him. They'd begun trying to be in the same room when someone was cooking. Sasuke said he'd always sat at the kitchen table while his mother made dinner, because it was only polite. Naruto hadn't cared and Sakura was glad for the company especially when it was her turn to cook. She was still a bit uncomfortable in the kitchen.

For some reason, that made her think of the matron of the orphanage. The woman had been stunned and disappointed when Sakura had told her that a ninja family had decided to take her in. Sakura hadn't given her time to ask any questions, she just went to her room and grabbed the little purse of ryou she'd kept under her mattress and left.

"Hey, Sakura?" Naruto asked suddenly.

"Yeah?" Sakura opened the oven to check on the pie. It wasn't golden yet so she closed the oven door.

"You're eight too, right?"

"Yep," Sakura said. "Wait, what day is it?"

"March fifteenth," Sasuke said.

"I turn nine on March twenty-eighth," she said. "What about you two?"

"July twenty-third," Sasuke said.

Naruto mumbled something.

"What?" Sakura asked. She turned to look at the boys.

"October tenth," he said. "That's my birthday."

Sakura stared. Sasuke looked at Naruto with wide-eyes. "October tenth?" he asked.

Naruto nodded. He looked down at the scroll, his shoulders hunched.

Sakura didn't know a whole lot about October 10th, except that there was a festival that day every year. There had been an attack eight years ago by a demon that had destroyed a lot of the village and killed a whole bunch of people. The fourth Hokage had sealed the demon away and in the process lost his own life, which was why the third Hokage was back in office.

"You were born the day the nine-tail attacked?" Sasuke asked.

Naruto nodded. He rubbed his stomach, as if it hurt. That reminded Sakura to check on the pie. She got it out of the oven just in time. The edges had turned a bit brown, but it smelled good. She set the pan on top of the stove, struggling with its weight a bit. She really needed to build up more muscle.

"Maybe that's why your parents are dead," Sakura said as she cut up the pie. "Maybe they died in the attack. Or maybe your mom died giving birth to you."

"Maybe," Naruto shrugged.

"Do you go to the festival for you birthday?" Sasuke asked.

Naruto shook his head. "I can't. People hate me most on that day."

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked. She set down three plates on the table. Sasuke cleared the weapons away and Sakura made sure to roll up Naruto's scroll.

Naruto bit his bottom lip. Sakura waited, but it was Sasuke that huffed. "Come on, tell us. You're living with us now, we should know."

Sasuke was big on not keeping secrets, Sakura had noticed. She wondered if it had something to do with the fact that his brother had killed his family and became a missing nin.

"They beat me up a lot," Naruto said finally. "Civilians, mostly. When they get drunk. One time, they broke into my apartment."

Sakura couldn't imagine. "Why?" She thought of everything else Naruto had told her. "Why doesn't anyone like you?"

Naruto shook his head. Sakura was upset to see that there were tears in the corners of his eyes. "I don't know. They call me… they say I'm a monster. A demon."

Sasuke frowned. "A demon?"

Naruto nodded.

"And you were born the day the nine-tail demon attacked the village?" Sakura asked to make sure.

"And the day it was sealed away," Sasuke added.

Naruto looked up, his mouth agape. "What… what are you saying?"

Sakura wasn't sure. She looked at Sasuke. "I thought the demon was sealed in like a prison or something."

Sasuke scratched his head. "It only makes sense, right? I mean… could a regular prison hold a demon? I heard the nine-tail is really really strong."

Naruto stood. Sakura and Sasuke looked at him. He pulled up his shirt.

There was a spiral on his stomach. Sakura stared at it. "What's that?"

"That's a seal!" Sasuke said.

"Do you think… the demon is sealed inside me?" Naruto sounded horrified. Tears were falling down his whiskered cheeks. "I really am a demon?"

Sakura quickly stood and went over to him. She pulled him in for a hug. "Of course you're not a demon," she said. "Everyone else is wrong, okay? You're just a kid like us."

"Yeah," Sasuke added. "You're just the nine-tail's prison. To keep it from attacking the village again."

Naruto rubbed at his eyes. "You think?"

"That's why you have to get stronger," Sasuke said. "So that it doesn't escape."

Sakura nodded. "That makes sense. You gotta train extra hard, Naruto."

"I will," Naruto said. "I won't let the demon out. I promise."


Life went on. Naruto wasn't sure what to think about the revelation that he might be carrying the demon that attacked the village when he was born. He guessed it made sense. It would certainly explain all the hatred he got.

Well, they were wrong, he decided. Sakura and Sasuke still liked him. They said he had to be strong to protect the village from what lived inside him and he would be.

He threw himself into his training. Seeing his renewed vigor, Sasuke and Sakura worked harder as well. They all started sparring together to work on their real-time moves. Sasuke still beat both of them most of the time, but when he and Sakura worked together they could sometimes take him down. That was always satisfying and Naruto vowed to train until he could beat Sasuke one-on-one.

On March 28th, they had a birthday celebration for Sakura. Sasuke went out and bought her a set of tough ribbons so that she could tie back her hair for training and Naruto baked her an awesome birthday cake.

Sakura had been excited and they took a break from training that day. She'd wanted to go swimming so they made their way to one of the ponds in the District and swam around.

Even Sasuke was smiling most of the day, which was awesome. Naruto didn't like how frown-y the fellow boy was most of the time. He and Sakura had made a pack to try to cheer him up.

It seemed to work more and more every day, though Sasuke might never smile as much as Naruto did.

And so things continued.


It was at the beginning of April when the first scroll appeared on their kitchen table.

"Is it yours?" Sasuke asked.

"No," Naruto said. Sakura shook her head.

Sasuke reached for the scroll and opened it. The other two crowded around behind him to take a look.

"Kushina Uzumaki?" Sakura read. "Hey, Naruto! She must be related to you."

Sasuke flattened the scroll out on the table. "It looks like a ninja file. Like the Hokage keeps."

Naruto nodded. "I've seen the room before," he murmured.

"It says she was a refugee from the Village Hidden in the Whirling Tides," Sakura pointed out. "She came to Konaha at a young age and enrolled in the Academy."

"Wait, look," Sasuke said. "She was a jinchuuriki."

"What's that mean?" Naruto asked.

"She was like you, Naruto," Sakura said. "She was the… container for the nine-tailed demon."

"Really?" Naruto looked closer at the scroll. "The demon fox," he read slowly.

"She was best friends with Mikoto Uchiha," Sasuke read. He felt his throat close briefly. "That was my okaa-san."

"No way!" Sakura smiled. "Naruto's okaa-san and Sasuke's okaa-san were best friends."

"She doesn't look like me though," Naruto said, staring at the picture of the woman with bright red hair and violet eyes.

"Yes she does," Sakura argued. "You have the same nose, look. And your chin too."

Sasuke nodded. "Something must have happened though, if the nine-tails escaped from her to attack the village."

"That's probably why you were chosen to be the new jinchuuriki," Sakura said, pronouncing the name slowly. "'Cause you and your okaa-san must share the same chakra type or something."

"Kushina," Naruto murmured. He traced her photo, and then detached it from the file. "You think I can keep this?"

"I'm sure you can," Sakura said. "We'll find a frame for it."

"Who left the scroll though?" Sasuke asked. It was pretty brief. All it said was the stuff on her being the container of the fox and being from Whirlpool country.

"I don't know," Naruto said. Sakura shrugged. "Ojii-san might miss it though. Maybe if we leave it on the table, the person will take it back?"

Sasuke nodded. He rolled the scroll up and put it back where they'd found it.

"Really, Naruto, you should give the Hokage a little more respect," Sakura said as she walked with Naruto to find a frame for his mother's picture.

Sasuke stayed in the kitchen. His mother had known Naruto's mother. That… had something in him easing. He liked Naruto, but he remembered his father's words. Maybe his mother would have been happier with him being friends with her best friend's son.

He wondered why whoever it was had given them the scroll. He figured they must have overheard the conversation they'd had about Naruto holding the demon and wanted to verify it. Whether it was done to be nice or not was a different question, but Sasuke figured Naruto would be happier at least knowing who his mother was.

Sakura and Naruto returned. "Hey Sasuke, Naruto was thinking maybe he could try to talk to the fox. 'Cause the demon might be able to tell him about his okaa-san."

Sasuke nodded slowly. "You'd have to be careful," he said. "Not to let it out I mean."

"Yeah," Naruto agreed. He sighed. "Maybe I should wait 'til I can control my chakra better."

"You must a lot of chakra," Sakura mused. "That's probably why you have such a hard time controlling it."

"If your okaa-san was holding the demon while she was pregnant it might have done something," Sasuke said.

Sakura nodded. "Yeah, I read that if a fetus is in the presence of a lot of chakra as it develops, its chakra coils widen. That's why children from civilians like me don't tend to have as much chakra."

"Huh," Naruto said. "Is that why I keep burning up the leaf when I try to push it with my chakra?"

"Probably," Sakura said. "You just have to learn to use less of it."

"Or try to push something bigger," Sasuke suggested. "There's no point in powering yourself down when you can just do more powerful things."

Naruto grinned. "Yeah!"


The scroll on Naruto's mother wasn't the only one, though. When that scroll disappeared, another had replaced it. This one was about methods of storing chakra for people that didn't have a lot.

Sakura figured it was for her. She couldn't really do what it was saying yet, but she made sure to memorize it so that she could go back to it later. It was nice to know that she'd be able to find ways to do big chakra attacks when she needed to, though she'd read in one of the Uchiha scrolls that small, precise chakra attacks could be just as deadly.

After that one, there came a scroll on the different elemental chakra. Sasuke apparently already knew he had a connection to fire chakra, because his clan always had. Naruto soon figured out that wind came easiest to him, and Sakura found she had some connection to water chakra. She'd thought that exciting, remembering the waterfall jutsu that had doused the fire on her house.

"It's also good for healing jutsu," Sasuke said. "Since you have the best chakra control, you'll probably also be the best at basic healing."

"It'd be good to know," Sakura acknowledged. "In case you get injured while training. Naruto can heal on his own, but we can't."

She and Sasuke had already gathered a collection of cuts and bruises. Naruto's all healed within a day, with the exception of the huge gash Sasuke had accidentally given him with a kunai that had taken three days to completely heal.

Sakura looked for any scrolls on healing on the bookshelves, but apparently the Uchiha hadn't been big on that.

The next day, a basic healing scroll was on the kitchen table. Sakura smiled at the ceiling. "Thanks."

It was already June and they'd all improved in leaps and bounds. The scrolls didn't come every day. Sometimes they'd go weeks without getting one, but they hadn't yet stopped coming.

Naruto had finally mastered the basics of reading, though he was slower than Sakura and Sasuke. Sasuke hadn't managed to activate his Sharingan yet, but he'd gotten better at making fireballs. Sakura had managed to control her flinch every time she saw the fire, though she'd insisted on keeping buckets of water in the training room just in case.

Sakura herself found that chakra control was easy once she knew the theory. She'd even managed to concentrate her chakra to her feet to allow herself to walk up the wall. Both Sasuke and Naruto had scowled at that, neither of them even close to being able to master that technique.


Sasuke's birthday came at the end of July. He'd been happy to find tomatoes at his place for breakfast.

Naruto and Sakura had gotten him a metal fan in the colors of the Uchiha symbol. Sasuke found it awkward to use at first, but he got better at it the more he practiced.

Unlike Sakura, Sasuke hadn't wanted to take a break from training. Since it was his birthday and therefore his choice, the other two had agreed. They spent the day trying to master basic cloning, though none of them got very far. Still, it was with a smile on his face that Sasuke went to bed that night.

And then it was the beginning of August and they were all getting ready for the Academy. Naruto was the most nervous.

"Just don't prank our sensei, Naruto," Sakura said. "You'll be fine."

"We have each other to help study," Sasuke said. "We won't let you fall behind."

Naruto smiled brightly at him and Sasuke hesitantly smiled back. The massacre of his clan seemed so long ago now. He only got nightmares rarely nowadays, and they didn't seem so bad with the knowledge that Sakura and Naruto also occasionally suffered from them.

They were his best friends. They understood him and he understood them.

"Let's go!" Sakura said.

Sasuke grabbed the lunch he'd packed for himself, and then grabbed Naruto's because the blond seemed to have forgotten it. He handed it to him and was thanked sheepishly.

They walked together to the Academy, Sasuke in the middle with Naruto on his right and Sakura on his left.

He was getting stronger, Sasuke mused. Like Sakura had said all those months ago, training together had helped him improve way more than he'd done on his own. He only hoped the Academy would help them even more.

And one day, he thought… one day he'd be strong enough to confront his brother and gets answers for why the massacre had happened.

But until then, at least he had Naruto and Sakura to occupy his time.