A/N: This story was written when I was younger, and quite frankly, I don't consider it my best work. It reeks of immaturity, as it falls into the 'rape can be cured by healing sex' mindset, a contemptible action. While I no longer enjoy this story, I have decided to leave it up, both to preserve my own work and its reviews, and as a testament to how far I have matured since then.
The former members of Team Seven and their peers are now twenty.
Warnings: This story contains explicit references to rape, violence, and sex. If these are triggers for you, I highly recommend not reading this.
The moon was full and yellow like a drop of amber, Naruto decided. Yellow like the eyes of Shukaku, yellow like ramen. He blinked- his eyelids felt like they were weighted down like Gai and Lee's legs- and took a long gulp of coffee, setting his mug down on the windowsill beside him while scratching his ANBU tattoo with the other hand.
'Ew.' Coffee tasted sick, like dead cats! He swallowed it down anyway, since anything- anything- that kept him from sleeping was a blessing. 'Sasuke-teme's probably asleep, too,' he thought, grinning when he thought of how he had finally brought Sasuke back from Orochimaru, screaming and kicking all the way, of how Sasuke had taken his probation, of how everything was right again.
His head drooped towards his knees. 'Fuck!' He jerked up and rubbed furiously at his eyes, then went into his molding bathroom and splashed water on his face, staring fixedly into the mirror.
"Come on, Uzumaki, Gaara did this for twelve years, you can do it too!" Hunted, bruised blue eyes stared back at him in a pale face, dark rings surrounding them.
He turned away from the specter in the mirror and went back over to the windowsill, curling back up on it. Shadows stretched over the streets of Konoha, the buildings like monsters- there was a scratching in the back of his head, hard and cruel, a horrible voice- lit by the moon above.
For a while he entertained himself with a fantasy of caring, a fantasy that Kakashi-sensei would teach him, that Sakura would look away from Sasuke's broody glory and look at him for once.
'Are you okay?' He swallowed, then buried his head in his knees. "No." His voice was weak. The voice laughed, and he felt the sensation of fire burning in his belly. He took a shuddering breath; he had to do this, had to protect Sasuke and Sakura and obaa-chan and all of Konoha, because it was- it was-
The answer was still as bitter as it ever was.
"Hatake-san, I'm worried about Naruto," Iruka said, rolling chalk between his fingers.
"The kid's fine," Kakashi said dismissively, turning another page of his Icha Icha Paradise book.
Iruka stalked over and slammed the covers shut, glaring into Kakashi's visible eye, ignoring Kakashi's futile attempts to open the book again.
"Kakashi-" the jounin looked up at Iruka's uncharacteristic impoliteness, then quailed away, "for someone with the Sharingan eye, you lack observational skills. Naruto has ceased begging for ramen, he has huge, black circles under his eyes, and when I tried to give him a hug, he flinched away and then tried to excuse it as having a back problem." Iruka could feel his teeth grinding together as he forced out the last words,
"He hasn't even asked Sakura for a date in over a month, for God's sake!" Iruka watched with grim satisfaction as Kakashi's eye widened, then he let go of the book. It was a testament to Kakashi's shock that he didn't immediately stick his nose back into it. Iruka passed a hand over his face, rubbing at his forehead, than pinched the bridge of his nose wearily.
"Look, Hatake-san, if you doubt me, watch Naruto when you and your former team have your little sparring session. Then you'll see."
He turned away and went back to his work, noting Kakashi's exit in a poof of smoke with a sour curl of his lips. 'May God help you if you don't help him. Goodness knows you've never helped Naruto before.'
The chalk broke in his fingers.
"Yo!" Kakashi grinned lopsidedly at his former team, perching on the side of the bridge. "There was a flood in my apartment, and I had to rescue my ducks-"
"Liar!" Sakura shouted. Naruto didn't say anything, occupied with leaning heavily on the bridge railing, staring at the water rushing underneath them. "Hey, Naruto, what's up with you?" The blond blinked, as if broken out of a dream, then jerked upright, grinning. "Eheheh, nothing, Sakura! Just thinking about what I'm going to have for dinner tonight, that's all." Sasuke frowned at the thick rings around Naruto's guileless blue eyes.
"Not that I care, dobe, but are you trying to look like Gaara or something?" Naruto blinked at him. "Huh?" Sasuke rolled his eyes, then elaborated.
"The rings around your eyes, dumb ass."
"Oh, those. I was up late studying some new jutsus." Sakura and Sasuke, seeming to be satisfied with the answers, turned away. Naruto slumped back over with a sigh once the attention was off him, wincing. Kakashi looked at him over the edge of his book, then put it away and gazed down at Sasuke and Sakura.
"Now that we've thoroughly interrogated Naruto, time to spar!" Kakashi leaped off the edge of the bridge and landed on the water, then teleported away to the training grounds. Seemed like he was going to have to keep a close eye on the Kyuubi's container, after all.
"No, Naruto, like this!" Kakashi dodged a clumsy kick, then punched him in the stomach. Naruto absorbed the hit without a wince, then pressed forward in a flurry of punches, his legs slow and ponderous, almost as if he was-
He was limping.
Annoyed at Naruto's lack of fight, Kakashi slid around to the back. Naruto was too slow, allowing Kakashi to slip up behind him and put him in a hold, his arms wound through Naruto's and immobilizing him. The younger man's ribs and knife-sharp spine dug into his stomach, frighteningly so. Naruto sagged in his grip instead of fighting and cursing, seeming… no, not tired, just resigned. 'To what?' Kakashi frowned as he felt something wet and warm trickle down his leg, the scent of fresh blood filling his nose.
Blood…? "Where are you bleeding from?" Naruto was silent. "Naruto?" Nothing. He turned him around, slipping his arms out from the hold, but Naruto stood still, hunched over as if he were a puppet with cut strings. Naruto's lips were moving, but he was making no sound, only repeating two words over and over. Kakashi looked closer to see what he was saying.
''My duty.' Huh. Wonder what that means.' He shrugged. "Okay, class dismissed! You can all go do… whatever it is you do, now." Sakura and Sasuke got up from where they were sprawled on the grass, bowed, and walked off, Sakura chattering inanely all the while.
"Hey, Naruto, you want some ramen?" If this failed, there was obviously something wrong. The blond's eyes traveled up his body to finally rest on his face, his gaze tired, wizened, and old. Kakashi felt his breath freeze in his lungs. 'Oh, Iruka, you were right. I am blind.' How had he missed what Naruto truly was? In the end, he was still a child, forlorn and alone, desperate for companionship and love that no one, especially not Kakashi, had truly given him. Naruto shook his head slowly.
"No thanks, Kakashi-sensei. I think I'm going to go home and lie down." Kakashi stood, helpless, watching the student he had never really known or taught turn and limp farther and farther away from him into the gathering darkness.
Confronted with his failure, he could do nothing.
Warnings: This story contains explicit references to rape, sex, and violence. If these are triggers for you, please do not read further.