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Small.

That’s how he was – Small. Little ball of blonde and tan and orange curled up tightly as blows rained down onto him. He was bloodied, scrape and bruised. The red, red blood stained his face and dotted all over him, but the small thing didn’t let out a sound.

Not even a faint whimper. Words and curses smashed into him, the crows of 'monster' and 'evil' which he heard clearly – he would be deaf to not. The Kyuubi wasn’t deaf, she was sure.

But this wasn’t the Kyuubi, was it?

This was a small, small ball of tightly coiled… child. A child, a baby barely old enough to wander around the streets of Konoha. Not old enough to hear such cruel things and be beaten till a step away from death. Just a seven year old child, he was.

Just a seven year old child. Yumi could clearly see, even with her oncoming age, that he was a child. So why couldn’t they – the upstanding people of Konoha not? She knew the answer, she always did.

The Kyuubi.

Yumi looked silently as the trio of chuunin grasped his head and snarled into his face. Would the Kyuubi ever let these worms touch it? Would it? Would it curl up silently taking on all the hate? Could it ever do that? Could it ever look so small and helpless, yet so, so strong? She asked and asked herself. No. It would not.

So when the worms took out their Kunai and the child’s dull eyes finally lit up with fear and started to struggle, she did something she couldn’t dream of seven years ago. When her pain was fire and her hatred ice, blinding her sight to the bigger picture and failing to notice the smaller details.

This was not the Kyuubi, it was a child. He was a child, who at his birth saved them all from their deaths.

He was never the Kyuubi, but only a child wrapping himself in boisterous cheer. And now, now after all the sins she committed, she would repent.

“What do you brats think you’re doing?” Her voice was as sharp as the kunai she was famous with. An edge of steel wrapped up in promises of death, just like it used to be some time ago. The disgraces were frozen with sudden fear, even after retiring, there was no match between a Chuunin and an ANBU. “We-we were teaching this monster a lesson!” The most jumpy one of the three replied.

“All I see are idiots who should be court marshaled for beating up an innocent child.” She hissed, striding between them and the child. They spluttered and another on of them bit out, his eyes laced with contempt.

“Innocent? That thing stole my bread!” and indeed, she noticed the bread lying in the dust. “If he was good enough to steal bread from three Chuunin then maybe he should have it.” Before the buffoons could add in anything, she flared her chakra and struck them all with a quick flick of her killing intent.

Uzumaki Naruto looked up at her like she was a Goddess and a demon.

She gently but firmly picked him up, never minding the shudder and cradled him to her chest. The bread stained the bottom of her sandal as she shushined to her house. He flinched violently and caved into himself.

Small, Kami, he was so fucking small. Barely big enough to be cradled, not like the rest of the seven year olds, no. He barely looked four. And he was completely drenched in blood and blooming bruises.

“Whe-where are we?” he muttered, eyes wide and glassy. Not who was she, not what was she going to do, but where were they.

“Home. My home.” She whispered, not gently as they did, as people would have in her place (If anyone ever opened their eyes and looked at the child for once.) but roughly – her voice cracking with strain of her emotions.

He looked fragile as if he was about to break into a million pieces. “Home?” he uttered the word gently, revered – disbelieving of the word itself. Yumi closed her eyes as she lightly stroked his head. “Home.” She bit out, because that’s what she will become to this child. She will be his home and kill everything and anything who dared to say otherwise.

As she should have been, years ago, if she would have only seen the child beneath the shadow of the monster he jailed.

Little Naruto couldn’t understand the old lady who helped him. (Protected him, helped him, and held him close like he mattered, her eyes tight yet so gentle. He couldn’t understand her words when she called the house home, and grasping his head warmly but lightly and looked into his eyes and said ‘Home’.) He really didn’t understand her, at all.

She clutched onto him like mommy cats did to their babies, gently and firmly – and warmly. She was so warm. Like, like a heated furnace and open fire – the cold from his body seeping out like a popped balloon.

He should screaming and pouting and demanding to be let down, because he wasn’t a child dammit! But, but it felt so good. Like she cared about him. Like he mattered. Like he wasn’t a monster.

All adults hated him, he knew, and maybe the lady was going to kill him now that he was in her home. She could keep him hidden and do all bad things to him, or maybe put him into a bad genjutsu, or she could make him disappear like the other kids in the Orphanage did.

He should be more scared of her, because she was dangerous and she felt like dark and bad when she stood up to those adults and was probably going to hurt him but so what if she did. This feeling was so good, and warm.

No one willingly touched him, at least not nicely. They only ever hurt him or mocked him or Ignored him like he wasn't even there. So Naruto couldn't help but melt into the touch of this scary old lady as his eyes went blurry and pain finally rushed in, the last thing he saw was a stern face with, deep dark eyes

Yumi sighed softly and started to clean the little child. She’ll deal with the world later.