Well, I've started another Naruto WIP without finishing my last one. Please don't hate me for my inconsistant muse.

This chapter's title comes to you from "Across The Universe" by The Beatles, which I listened to while writing.

Summary: An AU Naruto has lived a sheltered life, safe from pain and danger. But soon reality will hit and Naruto's fragile world will start to falter, because that's how the story always goes.


Nothing's Gonna Change My World

- 1 -

At night he would wander in the forest on the hill that loomed above their cottage. When the wind brushed the back of his neck with chilled fingers he was reminded of his frail humanity, and it was a reminder he required every night.

At first the nightmares had been too busy and confusing for his childish mind to comprehend, and they only occurred rarely—a few times a year, at best—his mother hugging him fiercely each time he woke screaming. With his head resting on her shoulder and his sniffles soaking her nightclothes, she'd tell him stories filled with candy and soft blankets and happy laughter. And then he'd sleep again, and everything would be all right.

But the lie that everything would be all right loses its power with every growing year of life, and Uzumaki Naruto was no different from other children in that respect. As time went on his nightmares became clearer and more regular. By thirteen he dreamed every night of demons, and he no longer believed everything would be okay. After each nightmare he'd sneak out of the cottage and into the starry darkness of the countryside, looking for anything to keep his mind busy. Or anything to save his slowly diminishing sanity.

Naruto became accustomed to less sleep a night than most people, and though his father said it left him with a permanently dazed look, he didn't let it affect his demeanor too much. He was a rambunctious boy, supplying his lost energy with cat-naps stolen during his lessons—which made him a far from scholarly boy. He was fond of the sporting games his fellow students played, and fancied himself growing up to be a professional racer in one of the towns or cities. He was the best swimmer and the best runner in his small world of the local village children (barely two dozen, each one a different age it seemed), though his hand-eye coordination was often found lacking. His mother and father applauded his successes but wasted no time in shoving him toward books in between every race or game; they seemed to believe his talent and love for the purely kinetic were things he'd "grow out of any day now." When he once joked that at least being an athlete was better than wanting to be a shinobi like the other children, the look his parents shared was alien and unsettling.

Besides the constant plague of nightmares and parents who wanted him to be better schooled, Naruto's life was simple. And it was only in the dead of night, after the smell a burning carcass filled his nostrils and the twitching hand of a dead child loomed in his vision, that Naruto sought solitude in nature. In those moments he hated to be around people, his family most of all. Every face he saw became a dying face from his nightmares, so it was easier just to look at trees instead.

For all his nightly terrors, there were many things in life Naruto never questioned. He never pondered what it meant that he didn't get sick, or how the most thrill-seeking child in the village never broken any bones while falling from trees or tumbling down hillsides. He never thought much about the "good-luck tattoo" his parents had given him as an infant—in a "rare moment of superstitious passion, for which we apologize darling"—except declare to his friends that having a tattoo made him cooler than them. The thing Naruto thought about least of all in his life as it had been so far (a small life in a small village at the edge of the small fiefdom called Wave Country) was the idea that he was anything more or less than what he'd always believed himself to be: the son of two respectable cloth-makers with a bright and hopeful world waiting in his future.

But we all know that ignorance is bliss, don't we? And we all know, though Naruto himself may not, that nightmares aren't born of nothing. So we will not be surprised when Naruto's fragile world starts to falter and tremble, because that's how the story always goes. All we can do is hope for the best for him, and pray that he is strong enough to face the truth when it comes. For it was coming, sooner than Naruto ever could have imagined.