Wonder and Torture

By: Tsuchi

Disclaimer: Don't own don't own don't own! Ha! Tag, you're it!

Warnings/pairing: none, this is a gen fic!

Spoilers: erm… only a few. Not much, really.

Summary: Sometimes, Naruto wonders. And just once, the Yondaime did, too.

Sometimes Naruto wonders what the Yondaime was thinking. Was it about his family? His friends? Or the village as a whole?

Did it even cross his mind the kind of life Naruto would lead?

Because the Yondaime was a smart man. The Sandaime always used to say that Naruto was meant to be a hero… but there was no way the Yondaime could have not known what the villagers' reactions would be. Just no way at all. Jinchuuriki are hated no matter what they do, no matter where they live. So long as people know.

Maybe the Yondaime was counting on the fact that Naruto is strong enough to bear the sneers and hatred. Or maybe he wasn't thinking about that at all. Maybe he was only thinking of the only way he could defeat the strongest demon out there.

Sometimes – late at night, when he can't sleep – Naruto wonders what it was like, standing on Gamabunta's head, facing down a snarling, hate filled creature of power so great that there isn't a force short of the God of Death itself that can defeat it – and even then, Death couldn't hold it for long.

Sometimes – late at night, when he can't sleep because the silence of his apartment that has never had a mother or a father within it – he wonders if the Yondaime felt fear. He also wonders if the Kyuubi did. Probably not; not until it felt – if it could feel it – it's soul – if it has a soul – being torn from its body, and compressed into a tiny space that isn't even really space. When he wonders this, his hand inevitably curls on his stomach, fingers digging in.

Occasionally – not often, because it doesn't really relate to his life as he knows it – he tortures himself by wondering what it would be like to have a family. What it would be like to have a mother, and a father, and maybe a few siblings. He thinks he might like to have a few siblings. Unless they were bratty. Then he doesn't think he'd like to have them.

He also wonders who his parents are. Or were. He supposes it doesn't matter if they're alive or not, since he doubts that they'll just show up one day and proclaim that he's part of their family and they care for him.

He wonders if his father would be warm or cold – if he were alive, and hadn't left Naruto to grow up alone. Would he have helped Naruto after school, when Naruto had trouble with his ninjutsu? Would he have shaken his head, and despaired having an idiot for a son? Would he have scowled and told Naruto that he'd better shape up when Naruto pulled pranks, or smiled ruefully and told Naruto not to do it again – brilliant prank, though it was?

Naruto has no idea. He doesn't think of it often – there is too much to do, and besides, it's not like it will help him any.

And what about his mother? He likes to think that she died in childbirth. It's kind of sad, he thinks, that the best option he can think of is death, but he can't stop thinking it, anymore than he can stop being a Jinchuuriki.

It's easier than thinking she's alive, out there, somewhere… hating him just like everyone else.

Well, not everyone else, Naruto thinks and smiles. He had people now. So many, too: Iruka, and Kakashi, and Sakura, and in his way, even Sasuke, maybe. And Hinata, Neji, Lee, Tsunade, Jiraiya… so many. He's not alone.

And he's glad. He's not alone anymore.

It's strange, he thinks, that he should have found people to be not alone with, while Gaara, who had everything he could have wished for – well, maybe not a mother, but everything else – a father, two siblings and an uncle – family – but ended up more alone than Naruto.

Maybe it was the seal: Naruto's is more complete than Gaara's. Naruto can sleep at night, at least, and Kyuubi can't try to take over his mind. Or kill everyone around him. Or anything like that.

But then, Gaara's not all that alone either. He's got his siblings now, and a student too – at least, he did when Naruto last saw him. Naruto wonders how Gaara is doing now, and hopes he's found more than those three people to be not alone with.

And with that, Naruto sleeps, warmer inside than he is on the outside, because Jiraiya is being a jerk, and has taken all the blankets.

At one point, the Yondaime sets down the calligraphy brush tracing the seal on the infant's stomach, and wonders.

He stares at the baby's face, and mourns the life he's giving it. Him: a life as a demon vessel.

He wonders what the village will think. Nothing good, he knows. But he trusts – has to trust – that the Sandaime will make them trust their Yondaime – former Yondaime's – work.

He wonders who will care for this child, this victim of a village's misfortune. Who will nurse him until he weans, and who will change his diapers? Who will dress him, and clothe him, this orphaned demon of the village?

He picks up his brush again, and dips it back into the ink.

He bends his head as the baby wakes up, and giggles and squirms. He can't look it – him – in the eyes. The babe's squirming creates a great slash of black across its stomach, and the Yondaime picks up a rag – for the second time, and wipes the babe's stomach clean. He's glad he doesn't have to work around an umbilical cord – and silently thanks whoever created the technique that allows umbilical cords to be removed immediately after birth, instead of waiting until it rots away on its own.

He starts on the spiral first, wondering again.

Who will this child grow to be? He hopes that the village will see him as a hero, but he knows it's not likely to happen. He's not sure he wants it to happen. 'Heroes' are spoiled, 'geniuses' are coveted and lavished with attention. What kind of a man would this boy grow to be under the care of a village that bowed and scraped before him?

Not a man the Yondaime would want to call his legacy.

The boy – who doesn't even have a name yet – giggles again, a happy sound totally inappropriate against the backdrop of screams and roars and explosions. The ANBU around the Yondaime shift nervously, but he doesn't hurry his work.

He's playing with fire here, testing a sealing technique that he only thinks might work in theory. It's not the best odds. But then, with a 100 mortality rate for the caster, it's not exactly something he can test out.

He has to try anyway. He has to. Konoha is just too precious to him to allow the Kyuubi to have its way. Too precious to be destroyed. Too precious to even think of holding anything back in it's defense: even his soul. Even his son.