Author: Carcinya (Isolde1 on fanfiction(dot)net)
Author E-mail: carcinya(at)yahoo(dot)com
Keywords: Naruto Iruka past memories childhood
Spoilers: Possible up to episode 80
Summary: "Words can sting like anything, but silence breaks the heart." Because the unspoken words are often the most important. (Iruka centric, light IruOC, KakaIru)
Disclaimer: This story is based on situations and characters created and owned by Masashi Kishimoto, various publishers including but not limited to TV Tokyo. Nobuko, Zak, Jeren-sensei and the plot are mine. No money is being made and no copyright infringement intended.
Now, now, people. If Naruto was mine, do you really think I'd be sitting at my computer, sipping bad coffee, and writing bad fanfiction? Honestly.
Author's notes: I apologize in advance for any spelling or grammar mistake there might be in this story. I am French, and still only learning the beautiful language that is English. Besides, I don't have a beta-reader. Poor me. Any comment is welcome, but obviously flames will be used to roast marshmallows. Or flamers.
For clarity's sake: This fic reflects my vision of Iruka's teenage-hood. It is in no way, shape or form related to canon - but, hey, I could be right. We know almost nothing about Iruka's past, aside from his parents' death. The story is a one-shot in three parts: it is mostly a series of flashbacks. Don't worry, you'll understand as you read.
This is absolutely not related to my TSB universe. And very far from my usual writing style. It just begged me to be written ... I hope you'll like it anyway. And if you don't, well, I'll cry it out.
From what I could gather, Iruka became a Genin at eleven, lost his parents at twelve, became a Chuunin at sixteen. Right?
Part 1/3: The lost children
"As memory may be a paradise from which we cannot be driven, it may also be a hell from which we cannot escape."
John Lancaster Spalding, Aphorisms and Reflections
- Present Time -
In the middle of a field, under the heavy cloud-leaden sky, was a memorial stone.
In front of the monument stood a young man.
He was not crying. Ninjas did not cry.
The rain did it for him.
No, he was not crying.
He knelt in the muddy grass, laid a hand on the dark cold stone.
§§§- Thirteen years prior -
Eleven-year-old Iruka runs down the deserted Academy hallways. Late, late, late, why am I always late?
Iruka is a Genin, his headband proves it. He received it yesterday. His parents were so proud.
Today, he will be assigned to a team. And a Jounin teacher.
And, of course, he's late.
Iruka speeds up as he glimpses the classroom's glassdoor. He barges inside.
"Here I aaaam!"
Breathless, he looks around. The classroom is empty, save for two children.
A bored-looking redhead, cross-legged on a desk, filing her painted nails with careful inattention.
A small, honey-haired boy at the window, his back to Iruka.
Neither of them seemingly paying any attention to his entrance.
Talk about a welcome party.
Unruffled, he plucks up his courage.
"Hello there! My name is Iruka, what's yours?"
"I said, 'Hello there, my ...'"
The tall redhead looks up. Freckles, milky skin, mismatched eyes - one brown, scornful, the other green, mischievous.
"Yes, yes, you're Iruka. That's great," she drawls. "The name is Sabunara Nobuko, but you can me call me Ko. "
Iruka nods, slightly subdued. He turns back to the other boy, who still hasn't moved or uttered a word.
"Hey, you, at the window. What's your name?"
Silence meets him. Anger flares.
"Are you deaf? I ..."
"Actually, yes, he is."
Iruka has probably misheard. No way a deaf boy could become a ninja, no way.
"What?" he asks, quizzical.
Nobuko shrugs inelegantly.
"He's deaf. And dumb. Not in that sense, you idiot," she adds as she notices Iruka's expression. "Deaf-mute."
"Oh," comes the intelligent reply.
He smiles sheepishly.
Nobuko snorts. She uncrosses hers legs slowly, slides off the desk. Stamps once, loudly. The lustred parquet vibrates lightly.
The boy starts, whirls around. He looks young, Iruka thinks. The sun plays in his honey-colored locks. He tilts his head to the side, curious.
"Zak, that's his name. Mitsuhiko Zaknafein."
The boy stares at her intently as she speaks. He reads on her lips, Iruka realizes, a little awed.
He nods at Iruka, walks to one remote desk, draws out a small slate and some chalk. Writes something on it.
Turns back to Iruka. A wan smile.
'Welcome to Team Twelve', the slate reads.
Iruka has learnt many a thing over the last few months.
How to speak slowly, and articulate, so Zak can follow.
How to irk Nobuko in the morning. How to irk Nobuko in the afternoon. How to irk Nobuko anytime.
How to avoid his sensei's fist.
He's very good at the first two, a little less at the third. Some bruises, a split lip, that's nothing. A ninja shouldn't pay attention to it.
Jeren-sensei is not a very patient man. Their teacher, they have found out quickly, loves women, alcohol, but certainly not children.
And especially not them.
The deaf-dumb, the whore in training, the insolent brat, he has dubbed them.
They are not worthy, not worthy of Sandaime's only son, he reminds them everyday. They should be happy he doesn't just give up on their sorry arses and be done with it.
He is not a bad teacher. When he is sober. Or when he actually wants to teach them something.
Both occurrences are rare.
A waste of time and breath, that's what they are. He should be training to become the next Hokage, not teaching good-for-nothing, untalented, snotty kids.
And so Team Twelve is on its own most of the time.
Missions are uneventful. Jeren-sensei snores under a tree. They complete the mission. They awaken their teacher. Back home, Iruka to his parents, Nobuko to her guardian, Zak to his father.
When no mission is scheduled, they are mostly free.
Mostly, because Iruka won't leave them in peace. He brings books, charts, weapons. Tries to learn, to explain.
Tries being the keyword. It's difficult to teach something when you don't even understand it yourself.
A ninja doesn't yield, doesn't cry, doesn't betray his village. Those are the key rules, he reminds himself everyday.
Iruka wants to become a good ninja. With or without a sensei, talented or not talented, he will learn.
He doesn't give up.
Especially where Zak is concerned.
A month into their Genin training, Iruka understands. Team Twelve will not last if they don't find a way for Zak to communicate with them. That slate of his is more of a hindrance than a help, in his opinion.
Two months into their Genin training, Iruka loses patience.
"We have to find something. Anything. Or else I'll become, say, completely mad."
'I second that', Zak writes, bland and calm as usual.
"What, you mean, more than usual?" asks Nobuko dryly.
'I resent that', Zak replies.
Iruka merely shrugs.
And now, after three months, and many a clandestine search of the Konoha library, Iruka triumphantly holds a book to a chest, like a prized treasure. He has found what he was looking for.
Beyond Silence: Sign Language and Scout Signs by Samikene Ashitaka.
Sign language is difficult, Team Twelve has discovered. It employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body.
Trains them to be observant, Nobuko remarks with surprising common sense.
The signs themselves are easy to memorize. Sign language is based on the idea that sight is the most useful tool a deaf person has to communicate and receive information. Gestures, hand shapes, positions and facial expressions replace words.
Fingerspelling - the "alphabet" - holds no real difficulty for them either. It is very close from the jutsu handshapes they use daily.
More problematic, however, are grammar, syntax and sentence order.
Zak himself has assimilated sign language with astonishing speed. He has relied on body language and lip-reading to understand the people around him since he was three. He has now simply turned this instinctive knowledge into coherent language.
The two other Genins, for once, are quite disadvantaged.
Nobuko especially is very awkward. Iruka is not really better, but he's not ashamed, and his motions thus flow more fluidly.
He often turns the lessons into ludicrous pantomimes when he feels his friends have had enough. Nobuko sometimes even join him.
Zak often wishes he could laugh at their silly antics.
He doesn't need too.
The mirth dancing in his amber eyes is enough for his two companions.
Iruka turns twelve, Nobuko thirteen.
They are immature as ever. Jeren-sensei is rancorous as ever. Zak is silent as ever.
But Team Twelve has many a reason to be happy.
Zak can communicate with them. They can understand him.
They insult him discreetly all day long.
It is childish. It is vain. But it feels good.
Iruka is especially vindictive. He's grown up in a loving family, he resents being beaten. The two others are either used to it, or pretending to be. With the war against Kyuubi raging around Konoha, many people have tried to drown their sorrows into alcohol. Zak's father included. All the bruises the small boy sports are not always courtesy of his sensei.
But Jeren-sensei doesn't not have any excuse.
He just likes it.
Team Twelve hardens.
Life goes on.
Humidity and heat numb the whole village. Make it difficult to think, even more so to train.
Even Jeren-sensei is calmer than usual.
It's too hot to be drinking alcohol. When he does anyway, it knocks him out for the remnant of the day.
Nobuko and Zak rejoices, unless Iruka announces that they are going to go over Chakra theory, or one of those boring subjects he seems so fond of.
'I tell you, Zak, he's going to turn out badly when he grows up. Like, become a teacher,' Nobuko motions to Zak, when Iruka is out of sight, or too engrossed in his reading to actually pay attention.
Zak nods vigorously.
But they comply anyway, with much sighing and glaring.
Because this is Iruka, and annoying him is notoriously bad for the health.
Because they are grateful.
Because no one else cares.
Under the shade of a tree, in the oppressive heat, Team Twelve learns.
Kyuubi has destroyed most of the village.
It has killed Iruka's parents, too.
Iruka stops speaking altogether, and immerses himself completely in sign language.
Nobody but Zak and Nobuko can understand him. It doesn't matter, because he wants to shun the others, all the others, out.
Iruka gives Zak his own blue forehead protector for his eleventh birthday, on November the 7th, because he has forgotten to buy him a real present. Zak beams, and hands him his black one without resentment. Iruka smiles back.
Only Zak can draw him out of his melancholy.
Nobuko stops trying after a while.
Everybody else does as well.
Even Jeren-sensei leaves him alone. He enjoys his victims squirming and furious and scared.
Hitting an apathetic excuse for a Genin really is no fun.
Snow comes back, and so does Iruka's voice.
One day, on a mission, he cries out to warn Nobuko of a danger. He feels betrayed and relieved and sad.
They say time heals all wounds.
They are wrong. It heals nothing, Iruka discovers. It simply obliterates the past.
The pain remains.
Life goes on.
April the 2nd sees Nobuko's fourteenth birthday; May 26th, Iruka's thirteenth.
The young girl is considered of age. She moves out of her guardian's flat without regret.
Iruka is confused. He would give anything not to be all by himself in his big, silent house. Home, he has found, isn't about where you live, but with whom.
He doesn't understand why Nobuko would want to live alone, and says so many times, but she just looks away wordlessly. One day, though, Zak corners him after a particularly intensive training session.
Zak makes a quick gesture - his middle finger pulling back from the palm of his other hand.
'Take advantage of.'
Iruka doesn't get it at first. At his quizzical glance, Zak, exasperated, crudely motions something that stuns him.
His index pushes through the fingers of the other hand.
Iruka stares in silent horror as realization eventually dawns upon him.
The dark-haired boy treats them both to Ichiraku that night.
None of them brings up the matter. They speak merrily of everything and nothing. As usual.
Stupid to pretend, except when it's all that is left to you.
Heat, once again. More free time too.
Theory is essential, Iruka tells them one day, but advanced Taijutsu and Ninjutsu are not taught in books.
Time to gather some knowledge, he decides.
And where else to find it, pray tell, than with a good teacher?
That the Jounin teacher in question doesn't really know he's teaching them is of little importance to his eyes.
Iruka loves hunting, always had. He remembers, before Kyuubi, the long days spent with his father in the forest.
Oh, he remembers.
His first prey is a weird-looking, green-clad fifteen-year-old Jounin who enlightens his own pupils with precious, yet often underestimated hand-to-hand techniques.
It is difficult to stalk any animal. Even more so a skilled ninja.
Through trial and errors, he learns to track, applying his hard-won hunting lore to the task with his usual mulish dedication. He learns to move noiselessly, to screen his chakra as he was taught in the Academy, to melt in a shadow within seconds if the Jounin happens to glance his way.
Iruka lives in perpetual terror to be discovered. More often than not, he almost is.
But it is good training.
His senses becomes keener, his memory prompt and assured. When he feels confident enough, he begins to follow another teacher. Red-eyed, black-haired, she is a Genjutsu specialist and thus very sensitive to chakra. Iruka is almost certain she knows he's there, but she never says a word.
Iruka is grateful for that.
Whatever scraps of knowledge he manages to glean, Iruka teaches his friends. Sometimes, especially at first, the jutsu he shows them doesn't work, because Iruka memorized it wrong, or forgot a part of it.
Nobuko scoffs at him, and goes back to painting her nails idly.
'Riiiiiight,' signs Zak, the R handshape moving with exaggerated slowness to the right side of his body.
Iruka is determined. He persists. Because when Zak masters a new move, his amber eyes light up in delighted pleasure and desperate hope to achieve his most prized dream - become a ninja, deaf or not.
No one has told Iruka it was impossible for a Genin to train his comrades for the Chuunin examination, because it has never been done before. And, since he doesn't know it is impossible, and also because he has no choice, Iruka teaches himself to do it.
Next part will be posted in a few days. Stay tuned, and please review!