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Sasuke remembers when he was little, a few months before the massacre, when he’d asked his brother about Uzumaki Naruto. Itachi had brought him to the park to play before he had to go on duty, and Naruto had been there already with a kunai in her shoulder dribbling blood. There was three genin surrounding her, sneers and insults directed at her as they cornered her into the tree line. Itachi had burst into action, setting Sasuke aside and out of sight from the fellow shinobi that were supposed to protect the village people; not attack other in the village.

Itachi hadn’t even reached them before Naruto had lashed out, all teeth and nails as she went for the throat. The kunai in her shoulder was shoved into the smallest genin’s eye socket, deep enough to permanently blind him, but not enough to kill him. Strange chains had burst out of her hands when Itachi got too close, cautiously drifting in the air in order to protect the tiny girl. Itachi had snatched the three konoha headbands declaring the genin of their status, pocketing them in a smooth motion as he slowly got closer to Naruto with his hands held out for her to watch. Naruto sniffed the air once, cocking her head to the side in curiosity as she let Itachi get close enough to her to touch her.

“It’s alright now.” Itachi had told her, pulling her into a hug to comfort her. Sasuke had watched stunned, creeping ever closer to where his brother and classmate were standing. Naruto had clutched onto Itachi as Sasuke neared, eyes locking onto his form and making him freeze instinctually as he caught sight of the odd purple-red of her eyes. He’d watched slowly as they returned to the usual blue, carefully edging forwards to meet them and have Itachi pull him to them with a quick movement of his hand.

“Itachi?” Sasuke had inquired without a question, and Itachi had pressed a kiss to his forehead with firm lips and shaking hands on the back of his old blue shirt.

“Shinobi don’t attack other shinobi, not without a direct order.” Itachi had stated with hidden anger seething behind his steady tones, Naruto had nuzzled in under his chin as she nodded in agreement with what Itachi was trying to impart to them with as little words as he possibly could. “Do you both understand me?”

“Yes, Chi-chi.” Naruto hummed. She seemed content to let him hold her, and Sasuke himself had been please with the attention of his brother.

Later, when Itachi has walked Naruto to her little apartment on the edges of the red-light district, Sasuke asks him about Naruto and what he had witnessed at the park with the genin attackers. “She was like an animal.”

“Yes.” Itachi had agreed gravely. “Naruto-chan has led a hard life, you understand? And so she has had to learn to protect herself from any harm that may befall her for those that wish to harm her in Konoha.”

“She doesn’t harm the civilians that attach her outside the academy though, does she Aniki?” Sasuke stated, because he had seen it happen after school. His mother was always one to step in and offer to walk her home, although she always refused the help. His mother was the only one to step in and help, which always made Sasuke curious about why she would. Not curious enough to question, but curious enough to wonder.

“No. Shinobi are not allowed to assault civilians, rather unfortunate.” Itachi had said, clearly muttering the last part to himself and so low that Sasuke had almost missed it entirely.

“Naruto isn’t a shinobi, though.” Sasuke had tried to reason, but Itachi shook his head.

“There are other circumstances, with Naruto-chan, ones I am unable to inform you of at this time. In time she may tell you herself.” Itachi informed him, letting Sasuke swing their clasped hands between them happily as they walked. “Naruto is integral to the village Sasuke, and we must all do our part to protect her. Even when she does not wish us to.”

“Mama said she was a survivor, that she took after her mother in that way.” Sasuke had related as the vague memory of a few weeks prior came to him. “She said Naruto needs us.”

“Mother is correct, Sasuke.” Itachi had sighed, tugging him away from the usual way home. “How about some ice cream?” He had, of course, given a hasty yes at the prospect of spending more time with Itachi and getting ice cream at the same time.

The memory had stuck with him even after the massacre. Naruto was a survivor, no matter what the village through at her she took it and learned and moved on. He’d taken to making sure she got home after school, despite her protests the first two days that he’d been allowed back at the Academy. The third day she had anticipated it, leaving with him as classes let out for the day and bringing him to get ramen from her favourite ramen stand and lamenting about her weird ramen gods.

It was most likely how he got stuck with her.

_____________________

“Sasuke!” Naruto shoved at his shoulder one day after school. It was different from the whine of his name that came when she wanted ramen. Different from the one where she was annoyed with him. This tone of voice screamed trouble, but Sasuke was already in her unfortunately strong grip. “I have to show you something, really, really, really, cool!”

“I have my appointment today.” He tried to protest, but Naruto ignored his protest like a proffeional who had practice. His appointment was his psyche evaluation that he had to go to every month still. Naruto usually let him off from her shenanigans on these days, but today seemed to be an exception as she dragged him roughly to the top of the Hokage monument.

She let go of him once they got to the top of the mountain side, pointing out to the distance towards ANBU headquarters that also double as the village T&I headquarters entrance as well. He looked to it, frowning when nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and then suddenly there was a loud bang and the entire area blew up into orange glitter that was contained within a meter or so of the building. Sasuke stared with a slack jaw, eyes going as wide as saucers as he took in the sight of everything being awash in orange glitter.

They were dead men walking. Iruka-sensei wouldn’t be able to save them now, Sasuke could already see ANBU in shining uniforms fleeing the glittery air and making a bee line for all of Naru’s usual hiding nooks and crannies found with in the village. There was already a blur at the Uchiha Compound, and two heading towards the center where the Academy was located.

Naruto did not seem to understand the unholy danger she had put herself in, had put him in, at all. She was laughing hysterically, holding her sides as she nearly tipped over the side of the monument as she fell to her knees quite hard. It wasn’t until he felt chakra getting close to them that there was a glaringly obvious lack of chakra coming from his (reluctant) one friend.

Naruto must have felt the chakra presence way before him, as a sensor she had to have felt the ANBU. The man had stopped with his hands on his hips, orange glitter only stuck in the fine stands of his silver hair as he radiated killing intent at the girl. Naruto only stopped briefly to look up at him with a straight face, and then she was back to rolling around the dirty ground laughing.

“Naru-chan,” ANBU Inu said with a too pleasant voice. It made Sasuke’s skin crawl. It made Sasuke want to run as far as possible. Naruto however just laughed harder. “I think I know of some training I can help you with, you ungrateful brat.”

“Okay.” Naruto had chirped happily, and then had the gall to disappear in a poof.

“Uchiha,” Inu called Sasuke’s attention.”Run.” The man stated angrily. Sasuke didn’t think twice, taking the advice to bolt in the direction of the Hokage. The man loved Naruto like a grandchild, and hopefully he’d see she’d be sad if Sasuke was murdered by ANBU for her own unfortunate prank?