A small blond boy lay on his bed, his newly recieved forehead protector in his hand. He held it limply. Until this day, it had been what he had strived for. That was before he had known the truth about himself.
He had had dreams of becoming a powerful and loved ninja- perhaps even Hokage- but those had shattered when he had found out who he was. What he was.
A single tear rolled down whisker-marked cheeks. He had been allowed to graduate to genin, but would he be allowed to advance any farther? Did he even deserve it?
'I don't deserve this at all.' the boy thought. 'The one person that has taken care of me- Iruka-sensei- he is an orphan because of me. He still let me pass.' He hurt. He hurt so bad that he didn't think it was possible. Iruka-sensei was like his father, but it was Naruto's fault that Iruka-sensei had grown up all alone. He didn't deserve the man's kindness, just like he didn't deserve the forehead protector.
'Now it all makes sense.' he thought, a few more tears escaping his baby-blue eyes. 'It makes sense why everyone hates me. Why they all glare at me. Why I'm...' He whispered the last word alone, into the silence of his shabby apartment.
The boy shivered, as if scared by the mental echoes of that word. He curled up into a smaller ball, dropping the forehead protector on the floor. It banged loudly, then all was silent again, except for a few soft sobs from the boy on the bed.
'It's my fault for being what I am. I'm not good-looking like Sasuke or smart like Sakura. I'm a loud-mouthed idiot with no special talent- I'm not special at all, except for the fact that I house Kyuubi. My difference only makes me hated.' The boy sniffed, trying to stop his tears.
'Maybe if I smile then everyone will like me more- maybe they'll smile back. I shouldn't annoy them with stupid things like my problems. Everyone should be happy. It's my fault- I took everyone's happiness away. I have to make it up to them. I'll help them.' the boy thought, getting a small measure of comfort from the idea that he could help people. They'd have to like him if he smiled all the time and if he helped out when he could. Right?
The doorbell rang.
"Naruto!" Iruka-sensei's voice called. The boy sat up, quickly tying his forehead protector on his forehead. He quickly walked to the bathroom, checking in the mirror to see how red his eyes were.
Very red- not good. He splashed some cold water on his face, rubbing his eyes. He looked in the mirror again as another knock came at the door.
"I'm coming!" Naruto said, looking in the mirror again. His eyes were passable- Iruka-sensei shouldn't notice. He quickly smiled wide.
'I can't let him see- he'll feel bad and ask me what's wrong. It's my fault.' Naruto thought, opening the door and widely grinning at his sensei. Iruka smiled back.
"Do you want to go out for Ramen? My treat for passing the exam." Iruka offered.
"Yes! Ramen! I want miso!" Naruto said, grinning as wide as he could. Iruka laughed a bit as his student's over-eagerness, not sensing anything wrong.
"Let's go then." he said. Naruto locked the door behind himself- still smiling- and went with Iruka, chatting animatedly about how he was going to be the best ninja that Konoha has ever had, and how he'll be Hokage one day.
'I can't let him see me frown. It's my fault.'
First Day of Training: The Bell Test
Naruto watched from his position in the tree- well, hanging upside down on a rope hung from the tree- as Sasuke fought and almost succeeded in getting the bell from their new sensei- Kakashi.
'Why can't I do that?' he thought, feeling envious as Sasuke's hands went directly towards the bell. Kakashi-sensei dodged, of course, but Sasuke had been so close!
'Why aren't I as good as he is? I should be. I can do it- I just have to practice more. Yeah, that's it. I can't help anyone like this. Stupid dobe.' Naruto set to freeing himself, but as soon as he was free another rope trap caught him. Out loud he swore, but mentally he sighed.
'Sasuke wouldn't have fallen for something like this. Sakura wouldn't have either. No one but me would have.' Naruto's eyes softened at the thought with sadness, but he couldn't let them see. He forced a smile back on his face.
'I can't let them see!'
Later That Day
Naruto shut the door to his shabby apartment. He had been a burden again. Sasuke and Sakura had offered their lunches to him. They shouldn't have done that- Kakashi-sensei might have failed them, and then all three of them would be right back at the academy. It would have been so much better to have let him go hungry- one missed meal wouldn't hurt him! Better that he had failed alone so they could go on- he had been at the academy a few times, once more might help him improve!
'I have to improve! I should practice.' Naruto thought. 'With who? I want... I want to practice with someone. I don't want to have to do this by myself.' He quickly ran through his options.
'Iruka-sensei? No, I've bothered him for the past three years. No, he should get some free time from me. Kakashi-sensei I shouldn't bother- he's a jonin, he's strong! He has other things he can do, rather than take care of me. Sakura-chan has friends...' Naruto's eyes softened as he realized how big the differences were between them. Sakura-chan would never love him. But... as much as he wanted it, she deserved someone better- someone that had a family, or someone with something to offer...
'Sasuke has everything- the whole village loves him. He has friends, he has a proper house, not some shabby shack.' Naruto felt like crying as he realized that the differences between him and the dark-haired Uchiha were even greater than the differences between him and Sakura.
'Sasuke would never even notice me. He's way too far beyond my league and has tons of people that want him already. He doesn't need one more.' Naruto had known about his feelings for Sasuke since before he and Sasuke had both been on Team 7. However, if Sakura- a girl that he liked, but not in the same way he liked Sasuke- was out of his league, than he couldn't even hope to ever get Sasuke to like him back. It was easier and a bit more acceptable to pretend that he liked Sakura, so he pretended to love her, to want her as his girlfriend even though his heart said otherwise.
'They... don't need me. They can live normally.' Naruto tore himself away from his thoughts, feeling the hot sting of tears in his eyes as he thought of all the ways that he and Sasuke were different. All the reasons they would never be together. Why Naruto could never expect someone to like him.
Naruto went through the cupboard. No Ramen- he was out and he was broke. It would be another week before he got any money.
Searching hard as his stomach growled, he found some stale bread and a bit of meat. Hungrily, he took out a kunai and cut through the bread as he held it in his hand.
"Itai!" he yelped as the kunai went a bit too far, slicing deep into his finger. He hissed, dropping the food on the floor as well as the kunai, standing up. Instead of letting himself bleed all over the floor, he stuck his finger into his mouth, licking the wound clean. It healed quickly after, thanks to Kyuubi.
'That cleared my head.' Naruto realized, slowly taking his finger out of his mouth. It had almost felt good when he sliced his finger- he didn't feel awful now! The pain in his finger had stopped him from thinking. It had temporarily distracted him, taking away some of the mental anguish.
Shakily, he knelt next to the kunai again, picking it up in his good hand. He slowly rolled up his other arm's sleeve, carefully manuvering the sharp edge of the blade so that it didn't slice through his flesh- others might see if it was so low. Slowly, he lowered the sharp edge of the kunai until it kissed his skin, not cutting yet. He drew it across his flesh, drawing blood for about three inches on his lower bicep. He almost hissed, but bit his lip to stop the instinctive reaction.
He finished by flicking the kunai quickly with his wrist, expanding the cut another inch. This time, he let himself hiss, closing his eyes as the pain filled his senses.
Mind-numbingly white-hot pain. It felt sweet. He shuddered, dropping the kunai. It clattered to the floor, a few drops of blood still on it, but Naruto ignored it. He kept the pain of the cut in the forefront of his mind, not letting anything else come in.
All too soon, it was over. Kyuubi's chakra had healed the shallow cut. Naruto grimacedin annoyance, but the pain in his heart had lessened. He wasn't hungry anymore- he put the stale bread back as well as the meat. Lastly, he picked up the kunai, rolling his sleeve down. He noticed the few drops of crimson red still clinging to the blade. He hesitantly licked it off.
His blood tasted coppery, and other flavors mixed to give it a very metallic feel. His stomach recoiled, but he didn't notice. If he had, he would not have cared.
"Thank you." he whispered to the inanimate metal, wiping the kunai off to dry it before placing it with the rest of his kunai. He stood and headed out his door, locking it behind him.
The Next Day
"Oi, Sakura-chan!" Naruto yelled, seemingly happier than usual, strolling to their meeting place late. Sakura looked at him, a flat look on her face. She was obviously not amused.
"Want to go out with me-"
"NO! I am waiting for Sasuke-kun." Sakura said, turning all doe-eyed as she looked at Sasuke. The boy just snorted lightly before looking away.
Their sensei's sudden arrival- only thirty minutes late!- interrupted the conversation.
"Yo! An old lady needed help with the wash-"
"LIAR!" Naruto and Sakura yelled, pointing accusing fingers at Kakashi. Kakashi just shrugged.
"Our mission is to find a cat and return it to its owner- D-class. The forest it disappeared in is this way." Kakashi started leading them in the direction, while Naruto whooped loudly and followed. He walked alongside Kakashi-sensei, seemingly in a hurry to do the mission.
"You're in an awfully good mood today Naruto." Kakashi remarked, staring at Naruto with his normal eye. Naruto smiled hugely at Kakashi.
"Any reason?" Kakashi may have noticed Naruto's hand creep up to his lower bicep, but if he did, he made no comment.
A/N: Good? Bad? OOC? Well, this was my 2nd Naruto fanfic, and I just can't bring myself to change it.