xxx-Starting small-xxx

Many thanks to my beta Blue Heart Burning for her help in fixing this.


He dashed forward and jumped, twisting his leg and spinning in an arc and driving it down in an overhead kick. Sasuke blocked it, but he expected that, and used his momentum against him. He grabbed Sasuke's arm as he came down, pulled him to the ground and drove a fist into his stomach. It was a dirty move, he smiled when it worked, pulled his feet in, and drove a kick into Sasuke's stomach. Sasuke went flying off of him, and Naruto stood up in triumph.

"Time!" He turned to Iruka sensei, raised an eyebrow in anticipation, and waited.

"Congratulations, Naruto-kun. Your first victory over Sasuke-kun, you've come far in the past month."

The rest of the class was silent. They would be of course…the fight between him and Sasuke was brutal, for academy students at least, because blood had been drawn at least once. They watched on, saying nothing, like they had done every time he and Sasuke had spared over the past few months. He grunted, stretched his aching body and limped over to Sasuke. That last kick had been angled wrong, and he'd pulled something.

"Come on, let's get to the infirmary. Your face is leaking everywhere." He joked lightly and Sasuke smiled.

Naruto extended his hand, Sasuke grabbed it and with a grunt they stood up and started to limp to the infirmary leaning on one another for support.

"Now, Kiba-kun, Shino-kun why don't you too come on over here and spar…maybe not as enthusiastically as Naruto and Sasuke-kun though..."

Iruka's voice faded as Sasuke and Naruto got closer to the infirmary. As they limped through the halls, Naruto turned to his friend and grinned.

"I beat your ass."

"Hmm…it only took you fifteen spars to do it? Who'd have thought?" Naruto laughed and continued walking. "For a genius, you act pretty stupid." He pouted at Sasuke.

"I can see your attacks clear enough…it's just…I can't react fast enough."

"So when you get faster, you'll be beating me all of a sudden?" Sasuke smirked at him. "I doubt it."

"Class rankings start tomorrow."

"Do they? You ready to bask in my shadow, Sasuke? Revel beneath my might?"

"Don't be so proud of yourself Naruto, I have a chance at that too."

"I know, that'll make the look on your face all the better when I beat you for it."

Naruto looked at Sasuke and smirked. A wide toothed grin appeared on his face. Of all the students in his class, Sasuke was his favorite. For a six year old he was sharp, and particularly mature for his age. While he seemed incapable of being able to connect with kids his age, because by default he wasn't a child, Sasuke seemed to be just the right blend of mature enough to be tolerable, but still childish enough that spending time with him was enjoyable, and tolerate his own childlike nature.

Over the past month he'd learned some things. The academy was far more boring than anything he'd ever imagined. Especially as an adult. The lessons was tedious and long, he read through the material they gave him in minutes, processed it half as fast, and was done with his work almost instantly after they gave it to him. He'd also learned exactly how annoying a group of six year olds could be.

On one hand they were impressionable and had picked up on their parent's attitudes towards him. In the first week they'd tried picking on him, but he'd ignored it and they gave up easily. Then when it became obvious he was above and beyond them in terms of skill they tried to befriend him…but he soon found he couldn't even begin to tolerate them.

"You keep thinking that."

"I will, in fact, keep thinking that, Sasuke. And I'll lap up your delicious tears as I prove you wrong, I heard Uchiha tears were the tastiest."

"You made that up."


Sasuke had no reply and Naruto smirked at him. He was so easy to mess with. He looked up, they were here. The infirmary. The large red and white cross painted on its wooden doors. A nurse waited outside, an impatient look on her face. She scowled at the two of them.

"Naruto-kun. Sasuke-kun. Why is it that, every time you two fight, there's always blood?"

"Because we're manly men?" Naruto asked coyly causing the nurse to scowl in response.

"No. Far from it. You two have no restraint, it's like putting two monkeys," she scowled at them, but both boys smiled back. This had become a slight ritual between them and the head nurse. "With wrenches in a cage. They keep hitting one another thinking knocking the other one out will get them freedom, when all their doing is wasting precious little brain cells between the two of them that could help them escape."

"That's a contrived metaphor." Once more it was Naruto speaking up. The nurse harrumphed in indignation and twisted around, grabbing both boys by the arm as she did so.

"Get in here, I've got a pair of idiots to heal up."


As she ate with them, she was quiet. Normally, Sakura would assume people like Naruto and Sasuke would never notice her. Naruto and Sasuke…they were…they were geniuses. Sasuke was the second son to a clan head, his brother was a chunnin, and apparently already on the fast track to jounin. He'd likely spent all his life training to be a ninja. In fact, Sasuke could already use chakra, at the age of six.

Naruto…Naruto was like Sasuke, and at the same time he wasn't. Sometimes he was like the rest of them, fun loving, and carefree. But sometimes she saw a look in his eye, when he thought no one was looking. She saw a look that spoke of hidden intelligence far greater than what he showed. She saw taking stock, and observing, and thinking long and hard about what he was seeing.

If the two of them were birds, Sasuke was a hawk soaring high in the clouds swooping down to strike his prey and stealing them into the skies, and Naruto would be an Eagle or a falcon, flying even higher, touching the brim of space before diving down towards death in a defiant call, waiting until the last instant to grab its prey, killing it from the force of the blow…and she…well she'd be that prey.

She didn't know why the boys had decided to come to her rescue, but she was happy they did. She still remembered the encounter, all too clearly. There she had been, crying as her bullies stood over her, trying to stand as they pushed her down. Meek and already used to this torment that had started long before she entered the academy and despite that still continued.

She'd been ready for more torment that day, and as she had expected it had come…but this time…this time when they pushed her down and started to mock her for her frailty, a blond boy had come rushing in…him.

Naruto…brilliant, smart, strong, Naruto. Naruto who without a clan, or any training, could keep up with Sasuke. Naruto, who seemed to stare into space for most of the class, barely paying attention yet still managing to pass tests and class with seemingly laughable ease.

Following him, seemingly reluctantly, had been Sasuke.

Sasuke, hardworking serious Sasuke, seemingly just a brilliant as Naruto. The two had struck it off from the get go. That first day they'd talked. That second day they sat together. On the third day of the academy, Naruto could be find excitedly chatting with Sasuke, who followed along with a smirk on his face. They were like Knights in shining armor, appearing to save a maiden in need like the stories her Kaa-chan read her on occasion.

The bullies dispersed after a rather one sided brawl, and there they stood… Night and Day. Naruto as bright as the sun, a wide toothed grin on his face, his sky blue eyes brimming with delight as he stared down at her. Sasuke, a look she couldn't quite place on his face, looked down at her in interest. His black eyes, and even blacker hair, reminded her of the night.

She smiled as she turned to watch them. Naruto was wolfing down ramen, his cheeks filled with the noodles as broth slowly dribbled down his lips. Sasuke ate his more reasonably, though it seemed as if he'd picked up some of the speed Naruto had when eating the noodles.

"Naruto-kun…maybe eat a little slower?"

"But Sakura-chan…We only have fifteen minutes left! And the walk back to the academy is ten minutes. I have to eat it fast or else it'll go to waste. You really want me to waste good Ramen, Sakura-chan. Are you so evil? Truly?" Large baby blue eyes stared pleadingly at her. She laughed.

Five minutes left to eat? Had she really spent so long occupied in her own thoughts? She'd barely eaten anything that day, no doubt before school was over she'd be starving.

"Come on Idiot, Sakura, let's go. We don't have much time left." Sasuke had finished, a few seconds later Naruto finished his second bowl.

"By Teuchi-san, see you later!"

"Goodbye, Naruto-kun!"

As they walked, Sakura spoke up.

"I talked to my mom..."

"And?" It was Sasuke who answered, she hadn't expected that…he seemed mostly disinterested in her, but over the past two weeks he seemed to be slowly opening up.

"Kaa-san said its okay. We can train after school. She thinks it'll be good for me since you two place top in the class, and I'm third…but only because of academics."

Naruto was beaming. He turned to Sasuke and smirked knowingly. "See I told you her parents would be okay with it, pay up."

Sasuke grumbled, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a two hundred ryo note, likely two weeks of his allowance, and slapped it into the boy's hand. Naruto pocketed it and patted Sasuke on the back.

"We can't win them all Sasuke."

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever Naruto."

"You guys bet on me?" She didn't how to feel about that.

"No…" She stared at Naruto, Naruto stared at her, and the awkward silence of Naruto stating such a bold faced lie permeated their small group. She laughed, and Naruto smirked at her

"Come on, let's get to class guys."


He leaned back into his seat, deep dark lines forming as his wrinkled, turgid, face morphed into a scowl. He sighed as he was often wont to do, and picked up the wooden pipe on his desk. He stuffed it with tobacco, lit the pipe and took a deep puff of the rich smoke. His eyes scanned the weekly report on his young charge.

This had become ritual now. Over the past eight weeks he'd had his ANBU watching Naruto-kun, he'd also had them recording is daily activities to be compiled into a report at the end of the week. He read through the report one more time, this time, reading through the various notes left by both his academy instructor and his chunnin-sensei.

Naruto seemed to be progressing prodigiously, and looked like in less than two or three years the boy would be ready for combat. He'd have to start concealing, and colluding the boy's heritage now. He made a hand signal.

"Jaguar." The masked anbu appeared before him in a blur of speed.

"Call the head librarian, and the administrator of records to my office. Tell my assistant, to prepare some tea. Assure her to bring saucers of honey and sugar. If I remember correctly Doshida-san favors the natural taste of honey."

Jaguar bowed deep, then disappeared in a blur. In the meantime the old Kage took a deep inhale of smoke. He let the nicotine settle in his lungs, let the substance seep into his body, then slowly he breathed it out.

A few minutes later his assistant walked in, three cups of brewed tea in hand and saucers of sugar and honey in the other. She set them down, then bowed deep to him.

"Is there anything else I can do for you, Hokage-sama?"

"No, thank you. I'll call you if I am in further need of your assistance."

"Of course, Hokage-sama."

He took his momentary reprieve to read through the weekly report once more. He chuckled as he read through his young charges escapades. It would seem, in his own boredom, Naruto had decided to undergo various missions as he called his seemingly random assortment of pranks on his taijutsu-sensei. The organized acts of minor terrorism on the man were rather well executed, and if he hadn't had ANBU there to watch Naruto and his friends partake in them, well, he wasn't sure anyone would have ever known about them.

His two little friends seemed to be quite capable as well. One of them was Fugaku's child, not too surprising considering his family. The other was quite surprising herself. Ranked third in the class…and the daughter of a civilian council member. It would seem young Naruto-kun was finding the rather skilled members of his class and befriending them.

The pattern didn't seem particularly random, and from talking with the boy he'd gotten the impression while the boy could be wild…he also did little without a plan beforehand. What was the boy playing at?

"Hokage-sama…you called?" The quiet knock of an elder woman rang throughout his office. Her hair was white, and her skin just as wrinkled as his. Yet, despite that, her sharp blue eyes saw all, and brought to the surface a magnificent intelligence.

"Doshida-san, good afternoon. Have a seat, warm tea?"

She grabbed the cup, took the saucer of golden honey and poured it in. She took a small spoon and stirred it for a few minutes. Then she took a drink and gave a small smile.

"This is quite good, Hokage-sama."

"I'm glad you like it. I still remember your preferences from when we were young…"

She smiled a coy smile at him and then laughed. "You old dog, you. Trying to sweeten me up before you ask an old lady for a favor?"

"I'm just as old as you, Doshida-chan."

"So it's Doshida-chan again?" Sarutobi smiled.

"It is."

She took another sip of tea and sighed. "So what do you want of me?"

"I need the record on Uzumaki Naruto blacklisted, and sealed for at least the next seven to eight years."

"A blacklisting? How many jumps?"

The old man stopped for a moment. He hadn't thought about that. A blacklisting was a thorough classification job; special ink was applied using the Hokage's seal and it made all files and records pertaining to a thing unable to be viewed by people that weren't the Hokage. The "jumps" referenced to association to the people or things being blacklist.


"Three?" She stopped drinking her tea for a moment, cast a glance at him as if to double check. He nodded and she sighed in resignation.

"On who, again?"

"Uzumaki Naruto."

"Oh…No wonder. I've heard he has gained quite the reputation as an upstart genius."

"Indeed. It doesn't take too many jumps to come to a conclusion we'd rather have safe for the time being. I doubt we'll need all eight years. But anything to keep spying eyes uninformed and wondering…"

"I understand." She took another sip of her tea.