Kakashi followed his charge, talking note of the way he suspiciously glanced around as if searching for someone who was following him. Kakashi knew it wasn't him – he wouldn't be able to sense him he had made sure of that – so he guessed his blonde student was being paranoid and jumpy.
Still he followed.
And Kakashi wondered and Kakashi pondered.
Naruto had had the worst grades at the academy, but Kakashi knew that he was a smart child. He threw himself into his training and still seemed to mess up in the most basic of basics. And then he had those days, days like these, where he acted so suspicious and wary and paranoid.
So Kakashi followed and pondered and contemplated.
He had to, his curiosity be damned.
But he was astounded when he followed the blonde child to none other than the academy teacher Iruka's house, and he was even more flabbergasted when the blonde hesitantly knocked on the door.
Now the Naruto Kakashi knew was anything but hesitant, he took what he needed and knew what he needed. In fact now that he thought about it- Naruto barely asked for anything but training and affection or praise- and he was never hesitant in that.
But Kakashi knew that the blonde child obviously needed so much more than that, and he wondered just how he spent his stipend from the jobs they did. But that was besides the point- and he was startled to the point of this whole mess when Iruka opened the door with an inquiry of politeness. That turned to confusion. Then Iruka glanced down at the far shorter child with a soft smile and a gesture to come in.
Kakashi – even more confused – followed their chakra signatures to the living room, conveniently in view of a large and open bay window. He knew Naruto hated being teased about his height, but he raised no fuss about the seeming slight to his height by the teacher and only followed him abashedly.
"Naruto," Iruka's voice was soft with understanding, "I want you to look at me."
The child did so, and Kakashi was struck by how blue those eyes were- even though he saw them almost every day.
Iruka smiled and ruffled the kid's hair, and he scowled lightly but Kakashi nodded in understanding from his hidden perch. He had uncovered the true meaning of that particular scowl long ago; I should hate this and be annoyed so I will be even though I am an orphan and crave this attention as much as it scares me so please don't ever stop.
Iruka came back into the room, carrying two books and a brush for writing. One book was obviously filled with lined sheets, some with more obvious use and others with the pristine whiteness and crispness of unadulterated newness. The other was harder to decipher, but Kakashi recognized it a soon as it was settled into Naruto's lap and Iruka sat beside him.
The book was opened carefully and Naruto glanced up at his previous teacher in inquiry before he flipped the page hesitantly.
Kakashi almost felt the intruder, looking at the picture of Iruka on the couch, Naruto cuddled to his side like his own son and feet barely touching the ground- if they did at all.
Then they started.
"He went on a trip around the world." Words were stumbled over in hesitancy, and Kakashi felt leaden shock course through his veins at the facts presented. "He hated," that word was spoken with dead familiarity and made Kakashi wince, "the fact that he was mis- misun- mi." Naruto looked pleadingly up to his teacher and Iruka smiled softly – painfully.
Naruto nodded and continued. "He hated the fact that he was misunderstood and shunned because he was different."
Kakashi recognized the tale; the Ugly Duckling.
"That word is astray. It means to be lost, or to lose your path." The confused stumbling over words continued.
And Iruka continued to be patient and gentle and a teacher. But Kakashi could see; there was a slightly pained look to his eyes as he helped Naruto- pained that a child so precious to him could be so overlooked to not have been taught the very basics to life by someone- just because they were under the misconception that said child was a monster.
Kakashi settled heavily against the tree, listening to Naruto's ashamed but determined voice as it struggled to sound out words and sentences the other academy students would have no trouble with because they had had parents to teach them.
And Kakashi almost cried.
He had seen Naruto starting to enter the library to read scrolls on history and had assumed that he was only starting to take his ninja path seriously- that he was starting to train in all aspects of the ninja skill set.
But now…oh kami….
No wonder Naruto struggled so much in school, and no wonder Naruto couldn't perform the basics with the ease of everyone else- he couldn't…he didn't have the basics needed even for the basics.
And that put everything into perspective.
And then it made him wonder.
He had learned the Kage Bunshin on his own- in an hour no less. How much of that time had been spent simply reading the scroll, and how much of the skill had he needed to improvise on because he couldn't read a particular word and had to go by context?
That was a brilliant child.
But Kakashi was drawn back to the present and the situation when the young blonde stumbled over a word particularly difficult for him- and his voice rang with shame and self-loathing before Iruka shushed him and calmly told him the word, enunciating carefully and gently to help the child at his side. Then Naruto drew in his breath and continued on despite his frustration- like he always did.
And Kakshi felt ashamed.
He was Naruto's teacher now. He was the one that Naruto should be receiving help from. And he was the one that should have noticed.
And that was the kicker wasn't it.
The only thing he had done to get to know his students was a background check, and while this was fine and dandy for those with people around them all the time to give reports and ideas- he hadn't sought anyone out to figure out his blonde student.
There hadn't been anyone for his blonde student.
A teacher from the academy wouldn't have had the time to check on one child- and he would have had the unfeeling bias of all the villagers. But Iruka obviously had found the time and worked around the bias everyone had.
Kakashi had only made the cursory visit with the hokage to check his house- notice the old milk and unhealthy ramen and surprisingly the healthy house plants and clean, if bare, rooms. He hadn't thought about why it was unhealthy food and old milk- or why Naruto had to be so loud or why Naruto didn't have anything frivolous like many other children would have bought with their stipend.
And now he guessed he knew- if only a little. But that was one why, and now he could guess at the rest. Isn't that the way it went?
When you realized one thing about someone- it usually helped you realize many other things about them. And Kakashi was realizing- oh boy was he ever realizing.
Naruto hadn't had anyone to teach him how to read - could he write just as well?- then he would have had no one to teach him how to cook a healthy meal, and would search out the cheapest form of nourishment he could find despite the fact that it ceased to be nourishment.
A friendly smiling patron who wouldn't turn away the demon fox brat from his store.
Naruto wouldn't be able to spend his money on the frivolous dainties and toys that so many children his age preferred; he wouldn't buy clothes that were in style- that would be a waste of money. He would be happy that he had clothes to keep him warm and dry and that he had a roof – however cheap and run down - over his head. It would be a waste of his hard earned money to spend it such- and he had never been taught otherwise; taught that he deserved such trivial dainties and privileges.
And so he carried on alone.
And Naruto would keep on going on alone- and Kakashi had to wonder where he got that from- this perseverance.
He was taken from his musings once again by the two studious nin in the home. A frustrated cry of despair escaped from lips between whiskered cheeks- lips that were chapped from staying up late and practicing what he could do right. Those lips were dry and thirsty and needy. And were watered and cared for by the ever mothering teacher.
And then Naruto smiled gratefully at Iruka as he placed the book aside (with that damnably sad smile) and he pulled to them the other book- the one with blank paper and used paper and marks and lines and newness.
He handed Naruto the brush, and opened the book to a brand new fresh page, just after the last used one; and he started to teach.
Kakashi watched with a sad visible eye as Naruto concentrated and used all his control to move the inked end along the paper, taking his time and effort and slowly forming the lines that could communicate.
Kakashi seemed to gain a sense of pride - for all Naruto seemed to be vexed and frustrated at himself with reading - he could write very well. And the look he wore on his face made Kakashi understand.
He had a different Perspective.
Naruto was doing so well, not due to his teachings, but because one overlooked academy teacher was paying attention to a child also very overlooked. Naruto was growing because someone noticed him, someone took the time to help him discover where he was having trouble and help him overcome it.
And Kakashi was humbled.
Soft spoken words of encouragement and question were exchanged and the much happier Naruto went back to struggling through the reading of one sorry story about an orphan animal that wasn't accepted until it left and turned into something beautiful in the others eyes- though it would have already been beautiful in someone else's.
And Kakashi left them there- feeling too much the intruder on a private moment and confusedly sad and proud all at once.
He smiled into the wind and the son of the White Fang went to his home and made a list- a list of things he noticed about the blonde now that he looked around him. And when he was finished this list he sat and pondered the real reason behind these things and actions that set him apart from the villagers- and set him apart from the monster.
It was the next day when Kakashi met with his team, noticing Sakura yelling at the blonde – once again – about not having his paperwork in order and taking to much of her time for her to show him how to fill it out.
And Kakashi smiled sadly and took Naruto aside and took the time to point out where what was and what was where.
And it was with a proud smile that he told them they had the day off- and Naruto headed straight for the library.
And it was with an even bigger smile that he encountered one Umino Iruka- and thanked the man for looking after the child.
He had a new perspective after all- and damned if he wasn't proud; of himself and his blonde student.
But he was humbled once again. When Iruka replied to his thanks with a quick mind that figured out the reason, and something so simple that Kakashi paused to watch him walk away.
"No need for thanks Kakashi, he's one of mine."
And so Kakashi gained an entirely new perspective- that maybe teaching had its own rewards, if the proud look Iruka wore when he spotted Naruto furiously reading in the library window was anything to go by.
And so Kakashi walked and pondered and greeted and read his own book.
…All with a new perspective.
1)The first volume of the actual manga has Naruto complaining about how he hates kanji- he struggles with the complicated writing.
2)In the anime, when he goes with Jiraiya he has trouble reading a road sign; Jiraiya only exasperatedly rereads the sign (obviously thinking Naruto is stupid) before they go on their way as if nothing has changed.
I hope you like this, I wanted to go for more along the lines of a short one shot and do a series of them about people realizing how hard Naruto works and how hard his life was…but I got carried away. Oops?