He woke gasping. He sat up, hand flying to his side where the fatal wound from that damn Senju’s blade had plunged in between his ribs and-
There was nothing there. Nothing but soft skin and the hard press of rib bone under muscle.
Weak. Soft. Underdeveloped muscle.
A tiny hand pressing against a tiny chest.
“What on earth?” His brain told his mouth to say but it came out more like “What on earf?”
Was that a lisp? And what was that voice?
He probed his teeth with his tongue while his hand went to his throat. No wound to his tiny ribs. No wound to his throat. Three missing front teeth, but with the hard edge of adult teeth growing in.
Slipping from the bed -too high up for it to be his own- he landed on bare feet. They were tiny too. Everything was so…
It was just before dawn, the usual time he woke in the morning, and the light through the window was enough to see his arms as he held them out in front of himself and stared down at them.
Tiny tanned fingers attached to thin tanned wrists that lead up to bony tanned elbows and… and…
Looking down there were tiny toes attached to thin dirty brown feet that lead to knobby ankles and legs like sticks and… and…
He was little.
He was a child.
He needed a mirror.
His footsteps were loud on the wooden floor. Thump. Thump. Thump. So loud. Louder than they’d been in years. These are not the feet of a ninja. These are the feet of an untrained child. He finds the bathroom -it’s the only other room with a door- and slams it open. Light. He needs light.
His hands form the symbols for a katon, just a little one, just a flash of light to fill that mirror in front of him, but his fingers are too weak to hold the position and his chakra won’t mold to the fire. Aggravation fills him and he flails, kicking out at the counter, climbing up onto it and grabbing whatever is on it to fling around.
A cup bounces off a wall and hits something, a switch?, and suddenly the room is filled with harsh white light.
He catches his reflection almost immediately.
Short blonde hair.
Bright blue eyes.
Weird marks on his cheeks- whiskers?
He smashes his cheeks with his hands, pinches them, pulls them. He sticks out his tongue, stares at the holes in his mouth where tiny teeth are giving way to adult teeth. Pulling on that stupid blonde hair, he screams in his fury, wordless and anguished and confused and miserable.
He is Uchiha Izuna and this is not his body.
An old man comes to visit him.
Morning has come and gone and Izuna has done a full inventory of the tiny apartment that he woke to. He doesn’t know how old he is but he knows he is alone. There’s one bedroom, filthy with clothes all over, and the bathroom, cleaned up from his flailing before. Other than that is a kitchen that opens up to a sitting room, both messy, both tiny, both filled with things he’s never seen before.
Something that stores food, though all it has is milk (he had some earlier) and one apple (there were two, he ate one already).
He’s hungry, trying to figure out how the things in the kitchen work because an apple isn’t enough, when the old man shows up.
The old man knocks on the front door and walks in like he owns the place. (Maybe he does, but that doesn’t mean that Izuna’s going to let him keep thinking that for very long…)
Izuna stares at him from the kitchen. He’s wearing the only clean clothing he found, some orange pants. (They have the Uzumaki swirl on them and he hates them.) The man walks in, hands behind his back, and he’s wearing long robes and a stupid hat. Izuna hates him on sight.
“What d’you want?” He goes for sullen and angry and manages it excellently. Tiny arms fold over a tiny chest and he shivers against the cold. (The only shirts that were clean had the Uzumaki crest and one is bad enough. He feels like his skin is itching just thinking about it.)
The old man raises an eyebrow at him. He reaches into a sleeve and Izuna tenses, he can’t help but tense up. This man is powerful. Even if he can’t move his own chakra the way he used to, the way he should, he can feel this man’s power. It’s the only reason he doesn’t spit curses at him.
“Your classes at the academy start next week,” the man says in a dry, faintly amused voice. Izuna hates that voice. “I brought a little extra to your usual stipend so you can purchase the books and classroom equipment you’ll need. Do you have the list from your teacher?”
Izuna stares at him. This old man has brought him money? To buy schoolbooks? “No.” The answer is a basic instinct. Someone points fingers at you, asks you things, blames you for shit, what do you do?
Deny. Deny. Deny.
(Especially now. Especially when confused. Especially when alone and lost and… and… a weird, stupid, blonde child with Uzumaki crests…)
The old man sighs, nodding like he expected this. “I included a copy of that list with the stipend.” He reaches into the sleeve of his robe and pulls out a paper package. He steps over and places it on the table. He raises a finger and wags it scoldingly at Izuna. “And don’t go spending it all on ramen. This money is for your books, Naruto. Not. Ramen.”
If Izuna were who he was supposed to be, he would bite that finger off. With pleasure. “Of course.”
Naruto? He wanted to ask. Who names their stupid blond child Naruto? Where are his parents? Or mine. Is this my body now? Are they my parents? What did you do to them, old man? But instead he edges towards the table and takes the package. He opens it. The money is different from what he’s used to, but not too much. He can make it work. There’s also the paper with the list of materials. Books. Paper. Etc. Etc. Boring shit.
Academy. Classes. For what? “Classes start next week?” Someone has put up a calendar on his wall and there was a date circled. He glances to the calendar, tucking the package of money into the waistband. He can go shopping on his own as soon as he was done with modifying those stupid, ugly clothes.
(Maybe there would be enough money to just get new ones, but Izuna doubts it.)
“Only five days from now, really,” the old man smiles. “Aren’t you excited? You’ve been waiting to start training to be a ninja for months now.”
Izuna did not need classes to become a ninja. Everything his father had ever taught him, everything he learned from Madara, everything the other members of his clan had passed on to him, it was all still in his brain. He just needed a bigger body and that would come with time.
He’d have to be patient.
Izuna was never very good with that.
He huffs but nods to the old guy. “Sure. Yeah.” The man looks at him with possible concern. Or suspicion. With that hat shadowing his face it’s hard to tell. So he gives the man a big, bright smile. This face was good at those kinds of things, he’d learned when he’d finished screaming that morning. He showed lots of teeth and said, “I’m going to be the best ninja ever.”
Izuna decided the man was concerned, because he frowned slightly and asked, “Are you feeling alright Naruto? You didn’t drink expired milk again, did you? You’re supposed to pay attention to the date printed on it.”
Whoever claims to be the parents of Naruto are going to die, Izuna decides then. That was just fucking irresponsible.
He narrowed his eyes at the old man. If he was related to this Naruto and considered this the way to take care of a -well, however old he was- child, Izuna was going to kill him, too. That would take some time and a lot of training but if there was one thing Izuna was good at, it was training.
“I’m just hungry.” He admitted at last. “I had an apple and some milk. The milk is not sour.” Not that checking the date would have told him anything anyway. He hadn’t known what day it was until just a minute ago.
“Even you get tired of having ramen, don’t you?” The man was smiling again. He walked through Izuna’s kitchen, or Naruto’s kitchen, whatever, like he’d been there many times before. He opened one of the many cupboards that Izuna had found stuffed full with container upon container of what could only be described as desiccated noodles.
There were only four dishes in the house, besides a half dozen chopsticks, and none of them were in the cupboards. They were all in the sink. A bowl. A pair of cups. A plate.
Izuna wants to kill whoever abandoned this Naruto to the false noodles and the sparse kitchen and the apples that were half bruises. “Yeah…” he said, turning so that he never has his back to the man. He’s pulled out one of the containers and turns it over in his hands.
“If you want to become a strong ninja,” he said, “You’ll need to eat your vegetables as well. Plenty of greens to get big and strong.”
“Yeeaaah…” Izuna said, drawing out the word. That’s obvious. Proper nutrition led to proper growth.
He looks at the containers with a new sort of horror. Those shitty fake noodles. Was that what this body had fed on? He pressed a hand to his ribs. So thin. So visible. He could count them. He had counted them.
This wasn’t his natural body type. This was a half starved child’s body. Horror filled him with ice, frosting his skin, chilling his muscles, freezing his blood and cracking his bones. He took a half step back. It hurt, the sudden understanding that those boxes upon boxes that fill the cupboards are the things that these people consider food, that they think are appropriate for a growing child, an aspiring shinobi, to eat.
How much bone loss had he suffered? How much muscle development had he skipped over? How had he even developed at all?
How old was he? He could barely reach the top of the damn kitchen table. He had assumed four or five but…
What if he was six? What if he was seven?
“Naruto?” The old man steps towards him. He kneels down at Izuna’s level and reaches out. He puts a hand on one of those thin little shoulders. “Naruto, are you alright?”
Izuna shakes himself from the ice. He needed to move past that horror. There were more important things.
Better food. Strength. Training. Power.
He tries to brush away the hand but it is heavy. And warm. Izuna hates the comfort of it.
“Bad dreams, old man,” he muttered. “No food and bad dreams. Can I go now?” He asks before he remembers that they’re standing in his kitchen. It’s a nervous, conditioned response to Tajima. This man might not be his father in spirit, but he was in strength and power. Whoever he was, he had power over Izuna. Naruto. Whatever. Whoever he was.
Izuna’s head began to hurt.
The man lifted his hand. “Get some breakfast.” He swept up to his feet. “We’ll meet again soon. I look forward to hearing about how you’re doing in the academy.”
“Yeah.” Izuna bobbed his head. He stepped aside as the man walked past. He mumbled some sort of goodbye, tamping down on his panic, his horror and his anger as best as he could.
As soon as he was alone, Izuna turned around and shoved the table with both hands. It screeched as the legs skidded over the floor, but he pushed it until it was against the wall. For good measure, he kicked the leg and swore when all he did was hurt his little toes.
Little baby toes on little baby feet.
Unacceptable. Completely unacceptable.
He was going to become stronger as soon as possible.
But the first thing to do was to get rid of that damn Uzumaki crest.