Eyes of the Broken Soul: Chapter 3 – A New Home
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, nor am I affiliated in any way with Naruto. I just like the show and manga so I wrote this fanfic.
This fanfic and the ideas therein do belong to me, ‘Tenrai Senshi’. If you want to use it in any way shape or form, you’ll need my permission first. All original characters also belong to me and may not be used without my permission.
Warning: Naruto is a bit OOC in this story due to circumstances explained, most notably in the earlier chapters. Some of the other characters may become OOC as well, mostly due to different circumstances taking place, but that isn’t 100% certain yet. If you don’t like it, don’t complain because I’ve already warned you.
AN: Hey everyone. Well, it looks like things have been a bit quiet on this story, in terms of feedback, so for now, this will be the last chapter I upload for a while. I asked if people were interested in the story and if they wanted to see it continuing, but with very little feedback, it’s hard to tell if I should continue to invest my time in something like this.
I will include a poll at the end of this chapter just to see what people think, but we’ll have to see.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 3 – A Place to Call Home
When one thinks of time, one thinks of seconds, minutes or hours, the passing of moments and events that shape our memories and our dreams. For many, time is simple, easy to understand and a subject that requires little thought beyond its measurement, but for Naruto, time felt awkward, it felt like an illusion, it felt…
In all his life, up until this very moment, time was the only comfort that he could hold onto that separated each moment of pain, each tear that fell or each cruel whisper that wedged into his heart from the next and yet, despite all that, it almost seemed fleeting in a way. It was as if all he could ever remember was that anguish and nothing more, as if the entirety of his existence was simply a single, endless moment of suffering. That was his life, his purpose, his very being, but now something felt different.
In one day, everything seemed to change so suddenly. Time almost seemed to stand still, as if it had ceased to exist altogether. In one day, he had felt the warmth of a hug, heard the soft whisper of comfort offered in kindness and felt himself truly smile for the first time. In a strange way, it felt like he had lived an entire lifetime in that single day, a lifetime of warmth and happiness and, perhaps, even love.
At least, he hoped it was love… he had no other way to describe that warmth that had suddenly begun to well up in his heart.
However, much like the passing of time itself, Naruto couldn’t help but feel that it was nothing more than an illusion, a fleeting moment of hopeful dreams and desires, and he knew that each moment had a beginning and an end. No matter how much he wanted to hold onto it, no matter how much he wanted to keep feeling that warmth, he couldn’t help but think that it would not last, that it was simply another moment of comfort that separated his last experience of agony with the next that was to come.
‘I guess… I should be thankful that I got to feel it at all. At least my wish came true, even if it was only for a little while.’
Naruto let out a deep sigh as he continued to walk silently through the now empty streets of Konoha, before looking up to the figure walking just as quietly beside him. Iruka did not look back down at him and Naruto suspected that the man didn’t notice his brief display of frustration. In fact, from what he could tell, Iruka appeared to be deep in thought and he doubted whether the man was even aware of anything at all at that point.
Unable to find any words to express himself, Naruto then turned his attention to the sky above, which now bristled with a cluster of glittering stars, scattered intermittently between silver clouds that caught the scant rays of bright moonlight that peered through them radiantly. It had been a few minutes since the two had left the Hokage tower and neither of them had shared a word between one another since then. Naruto wanted to say something, to ask what Iruka and the Hokage had spoken about, but he knew it was best to leave it for the time being.
As if to reflect the nature of his thoughts, a brief whisper of cool, icy wind brushed up from the dusty streets that met his feet, tickling against the exposed skin of his legs and arms and causing him to shiver slightly from the cold. Naruto quickly brought his arms up to wrap around himself in an effort to keep warm, but even then he could not help his own shivering.
This time, however, Iruka noticed his subtle reaction and, without even thinking on it, quickly placed an arm around his student’s shoulders, before pulling him closer in an attempt to keep him warm. Naruto didn’t resist the action. In fact, it was comforting to be held in someone else’s arms. Instead, he simply relished in the moment for as long as it would be offered to him.
“I guess we should have bought you a coat as well,” Iruka mused, almost aimlessly, while rubbing Naruto’s shoulders in an attempt to garner some heat. “This is unusually cold weather we have been experiencing lately, especially for this time of the year.”
Naruto just nodded his head in agreement, for a lack of any better response, his thoughts quickly wandering back to the previous night that he had spent sleeping under an icy blanket of wind and rain, next to an abandoned dumpster. The mere thought of it caused him to shiver again, only this time the cold was not to blame. Luckily, however, his actions did not arouse any further suspicions from Iruka regarding his current thoughts, or at least, so he thought.
Iruka, however, did not need any outward signs of the boy’s feelings. He could already feel them simply by touching him. He could feel all the doubt, the uncertainty, the fear and even the sense of emptiness that still seemed to linger deep inside. As he continued to look down at Naruto with a concerned expression, he noticed the boy’s eyes wander back up towards the nighttime sky again, which had since grown darker with the threatening presence of thunderclouds. Another deep sigh followed soon afterwards, along with solemn words offered through a soft whisper.
“It looks like it’s gonna rain again tonight,” Naruto almost choked, knowing full well what it meant for him.
A brief moment of awkward silence followed after his words, before Iruka suddenly stopped in his tracks, while letting go of his hold on Naruto and turning in front of the blond to face him. Naruto was a bit confused by the sudden action, but his thoughts quickly pieced the possibilities together, which only caused his expression to sink into a frown. Soon, his eyes had lowered altogether, having now settled on his own feet, before watching as his toes fumbled nervously in his sandals. Seeing his plight, Iruka quickly spoke up to ease his tension.
“Look Naruto, there’s something we need to…”
“It’s alright if you want to go now,” Naruto cut him off, surprising the chunin. Iruka simply raised an eyebrow curiously, unsure of the meaning of his student’s words. Sensing his confusion, Naruto spoke up again.
“If you want to leave now, I understand,” he continued shakily. “You’ve done so much for me already, and I don’t want to cause any more trouble for you Iruka-sensei, so it’s alright if you want to leave me now. I’ll be fine… I’ll be…”
Before the boy could even finish his sentence, Iruka suddenly knelt down in front of him, before placing a hand on his shoulder and inadvertently causing him to flinch slightly at the sudden contact. Naruto simply kept his head lowered, unsure of what else to do, but Iruka quickly brought his other hand up under the boy’s chin, before lifting his face until their eyes met. Soon, he was looking straight into the empty blue irises that now stared fearfully back at him, eyes that were longing for his affection, for his approval, and perhaps even for something more, something that even Iruka himself didn’t know if he could offer fully.
“Look Naruto,” He began again, with a sigh. “I… the thing is, I spoke to the Hokage about everything that has happened and, well, I don’t think a kid like you should be sleeping on the streets by himself. It’s too dangerous and it’s… it’s wrong for any child to have to go through that. So we decided… well, actually, what I wanted to ask was…”
The chunin then took a deep breath, unsure of how Naruto would respond to the words that would come next.
“What I wanted to ask was if you would like to stay with me.”
Naruto’s eyes simply widened at the man’s words, his mind trying desperately to process everything he had just heard. He could feel his heart begin to race hopefully in his chest, causing it to ache painfully, while his lips parted from one another, as if trying to speak silent words that simply never came to be. It was only a moment later before he finally found his voice again and even then, its existence was hardly measurable beyond a mere whisper.
“Yes,” Iruka continued in Naruto’s stead. “I have already discussed it with the Hokage and he approves of my request. All I need now is your permission. So, what do you say? Do you want to live with me?”
As Iruka’s hand continued to squeeze Naruto’s shoulder tightly, the man could feel a sudden flurry of emotions begin to overwhelm his own heart as well, emotions that he knew, all too well, were not his own. He could feel confusion, uncertainty and even a bit of fear, but after a moment, even those emotions were suddenly replaced by a strange sense of warmth. It was like a sudden glimmer of sunlight had brushed against his body, gently caressing his soul in its promising light.
Even Naruto’s eyes seemed to reflect his emotions, as a subtle tint of gold began to shimmer across a deep blue, creating a mesmerizing trance as Iruka continued to look into them, seemingly lost in their gaze. After a moment, without any other warning or response, Naruto suddenly threw his arms around his sensei, before squeezing him as tightly as his small, quivering body could manage.
“I don’t… I don’t know what to say…” he mumbled, as he buried his head into Iruka’s shoulders. “It’s just… I…” Iruka just continued to stroke his back in an effort to relieve the sudden wave of emotions that now enveloped him.
“There, there kiddo, just relax and take deep breaths now. I’m sure this is a bit of a shock to you, especially after everything that has happened, but I promise this isn’t a trick or some sort of cruel lie made up to hurt you. I would be happy to have you living with me, if you would accept it.” Naruto squeezed even more tightly after that and it was almost enough to rid Iruka of any oxygen that he might otherwise have had left in his lungs.
“I’ll take that as a yes then,” the chunin almost gasped out.
Naruto simply nodded his head, his voice now failing him altogether. Even if he could speak, he wasn’t sure if he could even find the words to express how he felt right then. However, words were no longer even necessary. Iruka could already feel what was inside Naruto’s heart. All the pain and fear he had felt earlier that day was no longer present in that moment of time, only a joy and appreciation that was unlike anything Iruka had ever felt before.
“Oh Naruto, I’m so sorry about all of this,” he offered gently. “If only I had seen it sooner. I would have put a stop to it before, rather than letting it go this far. I could have protected you from being hurt and I failed in that, but I promise from now on I’ll make things better. I’ll make everything right again.”
Naruto didn’t want to let go anymore, he didn’t want to lose that warmth that he felt right in that moment. He just wanted to hold on forever, to relish in that comfort for as long as he could, even despite the soft, icy trickle of rain that began to descend from the sky above. However, Iruka had already noticed the cold tingle of raindrops as they touched softly against his cheek and so he reluctantly pulled out of the warm embrace, before gaining Naruto’s eyes again.
They seemed somewhat puffy, but Iruka was pleased to see Naruto smiling brightly, although somewhat awkwardly, behind the mar of bruises that still clearly marked his face. Seeing such an expression, he couldn’t help his own smile as it crept across his lips.
“Well, I think we should hurry home, don’t you agree?” Iruka finally spoke again, only this time his expression was far lighter and cheery than before. “We don’t want you catching a cold on your first night in your new home, do we?” Naruto nodded silently in response, still unable to find his voice, before taking a hold of Iruka’s hand again, only to be suddenly pulled into an excited sprint towards the nearby shelter.
From there, everything became a blur for Naruto, as sights, sounds and even feelings began to distort and grow hazy. He wasn’t even sure if he was controlling his own body anymore, or whether he was simply living in the realm of some estranged dream scape. All he knew was that he could feel his legs moving underneath him, while his feet pattered and splashed through the mud and water that began to collect along the roads. The only feelings that made him even remotely aware of his own presence was the icy tingling in his toes as the moist earth seeped in between them through his sandals and the excited beat of his own racing heart.
Naruto didn’t even notice it as he instinctively giggled out loudly despite himself, his senses caught up in an overwhelming rush of excitement as he and Iruka continued to run through the rain, dashing excitedly from shelter to shelter as fast as they could managed in an effort to avoid getting too wet. It was almost akin to some sort of game that children would play happily with their friends, as the pair laughed and sprinted hand in hand, with Iruka even trying to shelter Naruto with his own body to some degree. However, for that single moment in time, Naruto didn’t even care about the rain anymore, nor did he even notice the cold. For that moment, all that existed were his emotions, emotions that began to well up as if they had only just awakened to the realization of what was truly happening.
The boy could soon feel a river of warmth flowing down his cheeks, mixing with the chill of the rain as the beads of water streamed down his skin and tickled it gently. Only this time, he knew that such an evidence of his emotions was simply a reflection of the joy that welled up in his heart and he was comforted in the knowledge that those emotions could not be seen by any evil that would remorselessly strip them away.
It was only a short time later that the pair finally arrived at their destination, although to Naruto it felt more like an eternity, as both he and Iruka came up to what looked like a quaint house near the outskirts of the village. It stood out somewhat from all the other houses Naruto had seen, being away from the cluttered mess of buildings that made up most of the rest of Konoha, and it also stood on its own as well, complete with a garden and a wooden fence around the front entrance.
However, judging by its appearance, Naruto suspected that there might have been more to the garden around the back than what could be seen by the rest of the village, although it was too dark to even judge properly, but before he could even utter a single word in an effort to voice his curiosity, Iruka was already pulling him along again, leading him through the front gate and up the stone steps that led to the entrance of the house.
Once they were safely under the shelter of the front porch, Iruka looked back down towards Naruto with a bright smile.
“Well, this is it,” he announced cheerfully, surprised even by his own excitement. “Welcome to your new home, Naruto.”
Naruto didn’t even verbally respond, although the way his eyes widened did more than enough to tell Iruka what he must have felt. However, as the man continued to watch over his charge, he could see Naruto’s body begin to shake slightly, although whether it was from anxiousness, excitement or simply the cold, he could not tell. Not wanting to take any chances on the matter, he decided it was best to get Naruto warm, so he quickly unlocked the door and opened it shortly afterwards, revealing the dark interior inside.
A single flick of a light switch quickly illuminated the situation and gave life to the otherwise darkened halls, and Naruto couldn’t even help it as his mouth fell agape with a deep gasp. He just stood there, motionless, his eyes wandering around the warm and spacious interior that met his gaze. It was nothing like the hellish, cold and damp halls of his orphanage, instead it was warm, clean and inviting. It all simply felt too good to be true and Naruto was almost too afraid to step inside, fearing that it was all just a dream that would end the moment he felt his most happiest.
Seeing his hesitation, Iruka placed a hand gently on Naruto’s back, feeling the cold, wet fabric underneath his palms as they fell against the soaked shirt that met his touch.
“Come on, let’s go inside kiddo, before you freeze to death out here.”
He then led the boy inside through the front door, before closing it behind them and shutting away the foul weather that lingered outside. Shortly after that, the man quickly took off his sandals and promptly disappeared off into a nearby hallway, leaving Naruto standing there confused, shivering and dripping wet. However, the purpose of Iruka’s haste soon became apparent, as the man reappeared with a large, fluffy towel held firmly in his grasp.
“Alright, let’s get that shirt off you now,” he ordered gently. “We can’t have you sopping wet like that for too long.”
Complying to Iruka’s request, Naruto unfolded his arms from around his waste and pulled the soaked clothing from his back. He struggled somewhat to get it off, as it clung ever so stubbornly to his skin, but Iruka quickly assisted him in lifting it over his shoulders, before yanking it from the boy’s head and leaving his blond hair spiked up in a mess.
However, even having rid himself of the article of clothing, Naruto could still feel the chill seeping into his skin, and his arms instinctively moved back around to hug his body again as it continued to shake violently. However, what concerned Iruka even more than Naruto’s shaking, was the painful view that met his eyes as he caught sight of the bruises that covered the boy from head to toe, bruises that dotted all along his chest and even down his arms. It was also painfully clear now just how malnourished Naruto was and Iruka couldn’t help but wonder how such a frail looking body could have withstood so much for so long.
Naruto must have noticed his expression though, because Iruka quickly noted the way the boy began to retreat into himself, his eyes quickly falling to the floor as if to hide his shame.
Of course, Iruka understood Naruto’s trepidations all too well. The child’s poor condition was all too easy to see now without any clothing to hide his body from view, but he decided it was best not to waste any more time or attention on it. Instead, he quickly covered Naruto with the towel he had prepared, much to the boy’s relief, before rubbing him down briskly from head to toe, while being careful not to hurt him considering his numerous injuries.
The man finished off with a quick ruffle of Naruto’s hair and once he was done, the blond mop on top of Naruto’s head was even more of a spiky mess than it had been before, which only prompted Iruka to giggle at the sight of it.
“Hehehe! That look kind of suits you, you know,” he smiled, trying his best to lighten the mood. Naruto just giggled shakily in response. He was just happy to be offered so much attention.
Once Iruka was satisfied that his charge was sufficiently warm and wrapped up comfortably in a towel, he then helped Naruto remove his dirtied, mud-ridden sandals, before wiping down the youngster’s feet in a similar manner. Naruto was somewhat surprised by the attention and care the man was offering him, so he simply stood there dumbfounded by it all. It made his heart feel warm, knowing that someone would do so much for him and ask for nothing in return.
Once Iruka was finally done with his self allotted task, he then stood up to his feet once more, before leading Naruto into a nearby bathroom and handing him some dry clothes.
“Alright kiddo, quickly get changed into something warm and come out when you are ready. After that I’ll show you the rest of the house.”
“O-okay,” Naruto stammered in response, speaking the first word he could manage since they had arrived. He then disappeared behind a closed door, only to reemerge a few minutes later wearing a pair of white sleeping shorts and an similarly coloured, short-sleeved shirt.
Seeing that the boy was now sufficiently comfortable and, more importantly, dry, Iruka nodded his head in approval, before taking a hold of Naruto’s hand again. In doing so, he felt a sudden rush of emotions flowing through their touch that were otherwise hidden from the boy’s expression, emotions that clearly spoke of the anxiousness and excitement that gripped Naruto’s heart.
“Alright… let’s show you around now…”
From there, Iruka guided Naruto through the house that he himself had lived in all his life, moving from one room to the next while giving the boy some time to absorb everything he was being shown. For the most part, it was a decently sized house, sporting three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a spacious living room with a fireplace, a study and finally the kitchen, with each connected by a central hallway that spanned the length of the house. It was by no means a mansion, but it had the makings of a nice family home, which it most certainly was at some point in the past.
Naruto also noticed a large wooden sliding door on the far side of the house that led into what he assumed was the back half of the garden, but he was unable to go through it at the time to investigate, given the poor weather conditions.
Each time Iruka showed another room to his younger company, he could feel a flutter of emotions rush through the contact shared between them, mostly excitement and curiosity from what he could tell, although there were some others he could not so easily identify. It made him feel strangely content, knowing that he was able to do at least something to ease the boy’s suffering, even if only a little, and as long as the feelings of sadness and pain he had felt earlier were not present, he was relieved.
After a few minutes of exploring the house, Iruka finally led Naruto into a somewhat larger room on the far end of the hallway. The boy’s eyes searched curiously around the spacious interior, exploring every nook and cranny that he could find, before falling on the center of the room, where a large double bed stood. Next to it, there was a small bedside table with a portrait standing firmly atop its surface. From what Naruto could tell, it was a photograph of a small boy standing in front of what was obviously his mother and father and the tell-tale scar running across the bridge of the boy’s nose clearly identified him as none other than Iruka.
Once Naruto had finished scanning the room, his eyes then moved up to his sensei once more, who had already looked down to meet his gaze. Seeing the curiosity hidden within Naruto’s expression, the young man smiled warmly.
“This is my room,” He offered gently, before looking up again. “It used to be my parents’ room before… well… before…”
Naruto quickly noticed Iruka’s expression fall into a heavy frown thereafter, although what troubled him even more was the sensation he felt suddenly welling up inside his heart. It was then that he realized that he had never heard Iruka talk about his parents before, which could only mean one thing.
“W-what happened to them?” He mumbled softly, curious about the matter. Iruka was surprised by the sudden question, but he quickly composed himself.
“They… they died a few years ago, when I was younger.” He admitted regretfully.
The chunin didn’t wish to say any more than that, mostly out of fear of Naruto’s reaction if the boy discovered the circumstances around his parents’ deaths. The less the young container knew about the Kyuubi at all, the better. However, even he could not help it as his own emotions began to stir precariously, but he quickly suppressed them as he noticed Naruto begin to grow uncomfortable to his touch as well, no doubt a result of the strange connection shared between them.
Realizing that it was best to move on, Iruka quickly spoke up again.
“Hehehe… well I guess I should show you your…”
“Was it hard?” Naruto cut him off. Iruka simply looked back down at the boy curiously, trying to decipher the meaning behind his question.”You know. When your mom and dad died, it must have been really sad,” Naruto continued again. “It must have hurt a lot.”
Iruka just nodded heavily. There was no point in hiding it and he suspected Naruto already knew the answer all too well.
“It… it was very painful.” He sighed. “I remember crying in this very room the night I found out. I cried for so long, I didn’t think I would ever stop crying again. I think I may have even fallen asleep crying, because I don’t recall what happened after that. What I do remember, though, is that since then, I have always slept in my parents’ room… in this very bed that once belonged to them. I guess it was my way of trying to hold onto their memory, my way of easing the pain and comforting myself. I felt, closer to them… I guess… and sometimes while I was lying there, it felt warm, like they were still holding me in their arms.”
Naruto simply continued to stare blankly for a moment, trying his best to process Iruka’s words. It was only a moment later that he finally offered to speak again, only this time, his words softened into little more than a mere whisper.
“I… I’ve never felt warm like that.” He began solemnly. “I never had parents to hug me, or make me feel safe or warm. I always used to watch everyone passing by outside my window, holding each other closely, and I used to wonder how it would feel if someone would hold me in their arms and keep me warm like that. Sometimes I would even have dreams that my parents were with me. They would hold me tightly in their arms and tell me how much they loved me… how proud they were to have me as their son…”
A single tear managed to escape Naruto’s eyes as he continued to speak softly, even despite his best efforts to remain calm, but he quickly wiped it away again, before taking a deep breath and continuing.
“I… I just wanted it to be real. I wanted to feel it, but I could never see their faces. I could never feel them touching me. I just felt empty and cold and… alone. I never had anyone to hold me, I never even knew what a hug felt like… until today. Today was the first time I ever felt a hug but I…”
Naruto then looked back up towards Iruka, whose expression had suddenly fallen into one of concern.
“I think maybe I finally understand how it feels now,” the boy continued. “It… it feels even better than in my dreams.” Naruto then managed to smile, something that definitely took Iruka by surprise. It was a soft smile and it was barely visible, but it was still there nonetheless.
“If I… if I had ever had a chance to meet my dad, I would have wanted him to be just like you Iruka-sensei.”
Naruto’s words were enough to make Iruka’s heart sink into his stomach. The way the boy’s eyes seemed to stare up at him so longingly, so desperately, only served to deepen the wound that sank itself even further into his chest and it was all he could do to place an arm around Naruto’s shoulders, before pulling him closer and squeezing him affectionately.
“Thanks kiddo. It means a lot, to hear you say that. Now let’s get moving again. There’s still one more thing I need to show you.”
He then led Naruto out of his own room and down the hallway once again, before finally arriving at one last door that led to the only room Naruto had not inspected yet. Iruka then let go of the boy’s hand and placed his own hand on Naruto’s back, before gently urging him forward.
“Go ahead, open it.”
Naruto took a deep gulp and then placed his hand gently on the door nob, feeling its cold touch tickling against his palm. For some reason, he felt hesitant for a moment, noting with great discomfort the way his heart seemed to sink anxiously. Taking a deep breath to calm his own shaking nerves, unaware as to why he felt so anxious in the first place, he then turned the handle gently and heard a soft click as the door crept opened, revealing the interior hidden behind it one inch at a time.
Naruto slowly entered into the room thereafter, with Iruka following closely behind him. It was a fairly sized room, not quite as big as Iruka’s, but a comfortable space for any single person to reside in. On the far end of the room was a single bed, standing right up alongside a large window that looked out into the back garden. Next to the bed was a small wooden shelf, with a night lamp standing atop its surface. There were also cupboards lined up on the wall to the far right, no doubt for clothing or anything else one might store inside.
After a few moments of silence, Iruka placed both of his hands on top of Naruto’s shoulders, before squeezing them gently.
“This used to be my room when I was just a boy,” he offered softly, smiling warmly as he spoke. “I have so many fond memories of this place, of all the times I would play in here with my friends, or how I would just lie in my bed for hours, watching the clouds pass by outside my window. It was also a place I felt safe and comfortable inside, even when I was sad or lonely…”
The chunin then looked down towards Naruto.
“Now it’s yours Naruto. This room belongs to you from now onwards.”
Naruto felt a warm sensation filling up his heart as he absorbed the words that were softly spoken to him. It was his, his room, a place that he could finally call his own.
Breaking free from the hands that held his shoulders firmly in place, Naruto slowly made his way over to the bed in front of him, before running his fingers through the soft blankets that covered its surface, his eyes lost in a trance as he regarded its comforting texture. This was nothing like the cold, damp, tattered excuse for a bed he slept in at the orphanage, and it most certainly wasn’t a dumpster hidden in some dark alleyway. The blanket was soft and warm, and devoid of the numerous frays and tears that he had always been used to.
The boy then jumped up onto the bed itself, before turning himself around and allowing his legs to dangle of the side, his feet swinging playfully beneath him while his hands continued to squeeze the soft fabric that met his touch.
Naruto then looked back up to Iruka with a smile, a gesture that the chunin couldn’t help but return in kind. Iruka then walked up towards the bed that Naruto sat upon, before kneeling right down in front of him and gaining his eyes once more in the process.
“Well, I know the room is a bit bare at the moment,” he admitted, “but it hasn’t been used in a long time, so it needs a bit of work to make it feel homey again. I guess that will come with time though. So, kiddo, what do you think of your new home?”
Naruto’s answer came in a wordless form as he leaped off from the bed and into Iruka’s arms, almost toppling over the stunned chunin in the process. The boy’s excited chuckle was almost completely muffled out as he dug his head deeply into Iruka’s shoulder and soon his entire body was quivering once again, only this time not from the cold. He still couldn’t believe what was happening, and he still wondered if it was just a cruel dream sent to torture him as he slept next to a dumpster. However, somehow he knew it was real. For the first time in his life, Naruto felt like he finally had the family and the home that he always wanted.
Truth be told, it was more than he could have ever imagined, more than he could ever put into words, as best as he might have tried.
“I-It’s wonderful.” He finally mumbled, almost inadvertently. “T-thanks dad…”
However, Naruto almost immediately felt Iruka’s body jump at the mention of his words and he quickly realized his mistake. Pulling out of the hug, he quickly took a step backwards again, retreating away from Iruka’s touch, while causing the man to frown in concern.
“I… Iruka-sensei, I’m sorry… I didn’t meant to…”
“It’s alright Naruto,” Iruka cut him off. “You just surprised me, that’s all. If you really want to, you can call me…”
“No,” Naruto interrupted. “I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t know what came over me. You’ve done so much for me already, I can’t ask you to… I can’t… I’m sorry…”
Although it pained Naruto greatly inside, he had already felt Iruka’s discomfort when he mentioned the word ‘dad’. He knew he couldn’t ask Iruka to be his father if the chunin did not wish it. It was simply a desperate hope that had caused him to utter those words and he knew that there was little chance of it ever being anything more than that. He felt ashamed and he couldn’t help but wonder if it was simply a selfish desire to want so much from the only man who had ever given him anything at all.
Seeing his growing discomfort, Iruka simply let out a deep sigh, before standing up to his feet once more.
“Alright then, I’ll get us something to eat from the kitchen. Why don’t you get a feel for your new room in the meantime?” Naruto just nodded his head quietly, too afraid to speak again lest his words cause any more discomfort. Taking that as his leave, Iruka turned to walk out of the room, before closing the door gently behind himself and leaving Naruto alone with his own thoughts.
Once he was gone, the boy then turned and walked back up to his new bed again, before jumping back up onto its surface, only to sit there silently.
‘That was so stupid. How could I have been so dumb…?’
Naruto’s eyes then shifted their attention over to the window beside him, his gaze quickly becoming lost in the view of the raging storm that continued to billow outside.
Iruka slowly made his way towards the kitchen after having left Naruto’s room, desperately trying to shake off the terrible feeling of guilt he now felt pulling painfully at his heart. Naruto wanted a family so desperately that he had even called his own sensei ‘dad’ without even realizing it. It pained Iruka to even think about the loneliness the boy must have endured all his life to have brought him into such a desperate need for love and acceptance.
‘I have the memories of my parents to comfort me, but all Naruto has is memories of pain and loneliness.’ He mused quietly to himself. ‘He can’t turn to those thoughts for comfort. All he has left to hold onto now is…’
Iruka finally understood. He knew that the only thing that had given Naruto any hope at all throughout his life up, until this point, were his dreams for a family of his own and the hope of a brighter future that even Iruka was unsure of whether he could grant his student or not, as much as he wanted to see the child happy. Naruto was just so desperate to find a father figure to hold onto, a role model that he could follow after and look up to, and Iruka simply didn’t know if he was the right person to fill such an important role.
‘It’s me. That’s what he is holding onto now. He was hoping that I would…’
Shaking himself from his negative thoughts, Iruka realized that he was already standing inside in the kitchen. Letting out a deep sigh of frustration, given his absent mind, he quickly set some water to the boil, while pouring two sachets of noodle soup into a cup for both himself and Naruto, while trying his best to distract himself from his own feelings. Once the kettle gave off a sharp whistle, signifying that it had come to a boil, he then poured the hot water into the mixture and mixed it thoroughly, before carrying it off to Naruto’s room.
‘They still hate you.’
Naruto let out a shaky sigh as he continued to watch the the rain pouring down outside his window, trying desperately to shake his deteriorating thoughts from his head while his eyes continued to lose themselves in a mesmerizing trance. Each flash of light that illuminated the nighttime sky, also brought with it a glimpse of an unspeakable beauty, with beads of shimmering light showering down towards the earth like a waterfall of glittering diamonds sent from some heaven up above.
However, with each moment of beauty that came to pass, so too did a moment of dread, as an ominous roar sounded deep into the shadow, following in the wake of the light. Naruto hugged his knees ever closer to his chest as his window shook threateningly, his breath now quickly growing heavier as his heart began to tense painfully in his chest.
“It’s just thunder,” he mumbled shakily, trying desperately to reassure himself. “I’m safe here, no-one will hurt me.” It was all he could do to simply keep himself calm, but even then, he could not rid himself of the lingering sense of dread that clung firmly to his soul.
‘You remember what time it is, don’t you, what happens in darkness and shadow? You remember what painful horrors the night brings. They will come soon, they will hurt you and they will not stop until your tears flow as briskly as the rain falls from this storm.’
“No.” Naruto whispered quietly to himself. “Iruka-sensei wouldn’t do that to me. He wouldn’t hurt me. He… he cares about me.” Just then, as if to taunt Naruto’s fears, the door to his room began to creek ominously, causing the boy to look up in a startled fright.
‘See? They’re here…’
Naruto felt his heart plummet in his chest as it was gripped with an overwhelming fear. As if by some instinctive reaction, he quickly scuttled to the edge of his bed, before swinging his feet over the side and lowering himself down carefully to the floor below. All he could feel was the cold tingle in his feet as his toes slowly pressed against the wooden surface that met them, everything else was simply a dull blur of raw emotion and panic.
Soon, he found himself standing against the nearby wall, with his back pressed firmly against its cool surface while his hands braced his body at his sides. His breathing began to quicken even more thereafter, straining his burning lungs as the icy night air was pulled into them desperately with each heave, while the pace of his heart quickened just as precariously.
It wasn’t long before Naruto could feel the same stinging pain in his chest that had afflicted him the night before, and it was all that he could do to hold his hand up against his beating heart, while squeezing the fabric of his shirt tightly between shaking fingers.
“Why… why does it hurt so much…?”
Just then, the door to his room suddenly flung open, causing Naruto to look over to its entrance only to see Iruka stepping slowly inside, holding a steaming mug of soup in each hand. Iruka, however, immediately caught sight of his panicked form, which only caused the man’s eyes to widen with concern.
“Naruto? What’s wrong?”
Naruto made no sign of responding. Instead, his shaking knees simply gave way underneath his body, causing him to collapse dangerously onto the floor, while his one hand continued to squeeze desperately against his chest.
Iruka didn’t waste any time following the sudden reaction, as he quickly dropped both mugs of soup onto the nearby shelf, before running over to his student and kneeling down beside him, watching as the youngster continued to writhe in pain. Naruto was now panting heavily and gasping desperately for air and his body was beaded with a layer of sweat. Iruka tried to reach out for him, but his hand strangely seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if it were too afraid to touch Naruto and cause him any more harm.
Fortunately, however, the moment was short lived, and soon Iruka was lifting the boy’s back up off the floor, before pushing him down against his own chest and holding him tightly in his lap. It was all he could think of to hold Naruto there against himself, trying desperately to subdue the boy’s panicked struggles.
“No! Don’t hurt me. I don’t want to be hurt anymore!” Naruto cried between strained breaths.
Iruka just continued to pin him down as best as he could in an effort to subdue his movements, while locking his arms firmly at his side in an attempt to keep them from flailing about recklessly.
‘Dammit, this is dangerous. Naruto’s breathing is erratic and so is his heartbeat, if he doesn’t calm down, this could end up badly.’
“Naruto, please calm down.” He spoke softly, trying to sound as gentle as possible. “I’m not going to hurt you, please, you have to believe me. You need to try and breathe.”
Luckily, his words seemed to have some effect, because soon Naruto’s thrashing began to subside, until eventually it stopped altogether. The boy’s head then fell back into Iruka’s chest, while his own chest began to rise and fall in a more rhythmical pattern as he continued to gasp desperately for air.
“That’s it Naruto, just breathe. I’m here,” Iruka reassured him again. “Just follow my breaths and breathe in time with me.”
Naruto didn’t verbally respond, but he must have heard Iruka, because it wasn’t long before the boy’s breaths were rising and falling in time with that of his teacher’s. It was only then, once he had managed to regain his own mind, that the tears finally began to fall, while Naruto’s body became wracked with heavy sobs.
After that, the young blond simply turned himself around in Iruka’s arms and buried his head into the chunin’s clothes as he continued to let out all his pain and fear.
“Please… don’t let them hurt me… please…”
Iruka didn’t know how to respond, so he simply continued to sit there, unmoving, with Naruto curled up in his arms. He wasn’t even sure what he would have been able to do either way, or whether there were any words of comfort that he could offer that would ease Naruto’s heart. So he simply waited it out, allowing the boy some time to recover himself. The only comfort he could offer was that of his tight embrace, as he continued to hold Naruto closely.
‘No-one… no-one is going to hurt you anymore. I will protect you…’
It was only a few minutes later, once the sounds of the boy’s sobs had died down a bit, that Iruka finally spoke up again.
“Hey, are you feeling a bit better now kiddo?” Naruto lifted his head in response to the question, revealing puffy blue eyes that were still reddened slightly from strain.
“Yeah, I feel a bit better now,” he finally responded. After all, he had to admit, he did feel a lot better now than he did a few moments before. “I… I’m sorry Iruka-sensei.”
“There’s no need to be sorry,” the man responded. “You didn’t do anything wrong, after all.” He then reached up for the two mugs of soup that sat atop the nearby shelf before handing one to Naruto, who clasped it firmly between two hands, instantly welcoming the warmth it provided.
“Here, drink some of that, it will help make you feel a lot better and it will keep you warm.” Following the man’s advice, Naruto took a few sips from his mug, relishing in the warmth and taste of the steaming broth as it passed his lips and tickled gently down his throat. After he was finally finished with his liquid meal, he looked back up to Iruka again.
“Thanks Iruka-sensei. Thanks for everything you’re doing for me.”
“It’s alright Kiddo,” Iruka replied. “You don’t need to thank me. Right now, I think you just need some rest. It’s high time we got you into bed after all.” Iruka was just about to get up to move again in light of his conclusion, but before he could, Naruto spoke up once more.
“No, please wait. I… I’m just a bit, well… can you please wait with me until I fall asleep? I-I don’t want to be alone.” Iruka was a bit confused by the request, but he quickly understood the reasoning behind it, so he just nodded his head and smiled.
“Sure thing kiddo. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe.”
Relieved to hear his answer, Naruto placed his head back down against Iruka’s chest, his eyes quickly growing heavy with fatigue, while the chunin himself simply continued to run a hand through his spikey blond hair, a comfort that seemed to calm the boy down greatly. It wasn’t long before Naruto’s breathing became soft and light with the signs of sleep, after which Iruka took a moment to look down on his peaceful form for a brief moment. It was somewhat amusing, to see Naruto curled up in his arms so snuggly, an empty mug still clasped firmly in his hands, and yet, at the same time, it felt strangely saddening as well.
Not wanting to allow his thoughts to linger on such things any longer, Iruka decided it was time for him to get to bed as well. Standing up shortly after, with Naruto in his arms, he then lowered the boy into his own bed, before covering him up securely within the warmth of his blankets.
“Goodnight kiddo. I hope your dreams will be better now.”
After that, he turned and left the room, closing the door gently behind himself, before heading down the hallway towards his own room. Once he was safely inside, all he could do was lean against the nearest wall, his body now completely overcome with physical and mental fatigue.
‘Boy, what a day. I’m really glad it’s over. Whoever thought looking after a kid like that could be so tiring?’
It was only then that he noticed the cold chill that ran down the sides of either of his cheeks. Moving a hand up to investigate, his touch was met with the wetness of tears, tears he was not even aware had fallen from his eyes.
“When did I…?” But he quickly realized where they must have originated from, after all, there was only one explanation he could think of to explain such a mystery at the time.
‘I see, so they belonged to him after all. Just what is this strange power that Naruto has… a power that would share all the emotions hidden deep within his heart with whoever he touches?’
Iruka decided it was best to leave his thoughts behind for the time being. Naruto’s strange power was a mystery they would have to try and uncover soon, but for now, rest was all that was important. However, even despite his lack of understanding, Iruka still felt a subtle sense of relief, knowing that maybe, just maybe, he was able to carry at least some of Naruto’s heavy burden for himself.
To share some of Naruto’s sadness, his fear or even his tears, Iruka would gladly do so if it spared the boy even just a little of that pain.
AN: That’s it for now. Let me know what you guys think, or if you would like to see any more. It takes a lot of work to write each chapter, so it would be nice to know if it’s worth the time.
Writer – Tenrai Senshi (Me of course! XD)
Beta Reader – Captain Pickles