Disclaimer: Never owned 'Naruto', never will…
Love is a Riddle
To me, she was an angel. I'd never known anyone so…majestic
I was just nine years old at the time, and I could never find the right words to say to her, to describe how I felt.
And when I tried to ask her to give me the right words, she'd send me on a wild chase.
She always said it was something elusive. Something invisible, unseen to the naked eye. I'd always ask her what, but she would just smile with a shrug of her shoulders. I'd keep pestering her, begging her to give me a hint. And she gave me many. I'd hang on every word she spoke, listening with fervor, memorizing every move she made. She'd always start out by saying it was a little like a narcotic effect. I'd just stare, eyes wide and mouth agape. She'd laugh, eyes twinkling in mirth. Then she'd beckon me closer and I would lean in and her soft, melodic voice would ring in my ear,
"It touches your soul…"
Then she'd send me home to stew over her words. I'd ponder about them for days, mind working to unravel the mystery of her statements. My peers often wondered what was going through my mind at that age, but I never bothered them with my ideas, much less my problems. They didn't know me, and their parent despised me, so as a result they feared me. They hated me enough.
So I'd go run to the park and sit among the flowers or sit on the balcony of my apartment and think. I'd spend hours staring at the clouds, the sky, the trees, anything to do with nature, pondering the right word. I was just a child, albeit a lonely one, how was I to know the answer was so simple?
I'd be back to her the next day, beleaguering her and breaking down her defenses with my heartbreaking, haunted looking eyes. She'd always cave in when she saw them, saying they reminded her of when she was young. I'd never press her further for an answer, instead tackling the mystery statements again. She'd laugh, her wet hair glistening in the light as she stared at me.
I was a peculiar child. I looked older than I actually was, and had the mentality of one many years older than myself. I was unnaturally tall for my age, rapidly approaching ten and already a solid figure. She didn't have to lean down far to look me in the eyes.
She'd watch me for a few moments, soft, chocolate colored eyes directing their warm gaze toward me. Those hypnotizing eyes would linger for a little. She'd shift a stray strand of ebony hair out of her eyes, and then she'd move away from the sink, lean down, pink tongue wandering across her lips and whisper,
"It drowns you in warmth and once you get some, you will never get enough…"
"…It washes over your body and envelops you…and soon you become addicted…"
And she was right.
The trees shifted as the last of the wind died down. A few leaves floated through the orange and red tinted skies, straight from the canopies of the trees, each leisurely taking their time on the descent down. Darkness had begun to creep like a phantom into the day, casting its inky color across the skies.
The day was ending and the scattered shadows of trees played across the road, spreading out across the expanse, shading the face of a young, blonde haired child.
He wandered down the street, a confused look plastered across his lightly tanned features. Touching blue-eyes glowed in the dusk, setting sun illuminating the cerulean orbs. His blonde locks swished as he walked, bouncing up and down on his head with each step. He kept in line; step after step aimed forward, the massive cream-colored compound behind him fading into the distance.
The young blonde touched his cheek absently, fingers tracing across the whisker-like marks etched there, brow scrunched in confusion. His clothes hung loosely from his ever-growing frame, shifting as he walked. They were ragged and tattered, a product of his steady beatings and lack of funds. His skin was tanned all over and developing muscles, a result of constant traveling around the village, rippled slightly in the shadows of the dying day.
He was a quiet child, quite the opposite of most children his age. When he spoke, his voice sounded raw, unused, as if unsure of what to actually say. He was young, so very young, yet so in tune with the world around him. He had lost his innocence in this world long ago. It was not rare to see him sitting in silence, just staring into the distance. He spoke aloud to himself in a soft, fallow voice, pondering, his mind working ceaselessly,
"It touches your soul? What can do that…? How can something…go that deep?"
His mind wandered.
His eyes sparkled.
His mouth twitched.
Naruto traveled down the street, blue eyes glinting in wonder. The dreary buildings around him passed away without a second glance, his brain only registering the surroundings before returning to the matter at hand. He turned a corner, his head still tilted down in deep thought.
He was nearing his apartment. He could tell. The streets were slop, grass grew on the sidewalks and the dull, gray colored apartments sagged in their foundations. Multi dyed graffiti plagued the walls of the few stores still left. This district was barely inhabited, people leaving the meager living conditions for better opportunities. There was nothing now, just the scattered street gang or two, accompanied by the man too old to leave or the odd shinobi here or there.
But just farther down the street was a market district and a little beyond a main residential area. Everything there was seemingly like a whole new world compared to the poor conditions of his neighborhood. There were bright lights, laughing crowds, lovely stores. It was a paradise. The prosperous environment of that area was like a fairy tale straight out of a book.
He passed a few more houses, his ragged shoes carrying him deeper into the dangerous neighborhood in which he lived.
The confused expression on his face faded away, replaced by one of deep sadness. Naruto's azure eyes clouded over, turning gray like a rainy day.
'…I just wish…'
It was just a few blocks away now and he would home. His mouth crinkled into a frown. Home. He would never be able to truly call that…place he lived in home. It didn't feel like home. But then again, he had never really had a home, so he probably wouldn't know.
'…It could be…'
Was it supposed to feel sterile? Was it supposed to feel barren? Lifeless? It was empty, four walls surrounding the small living space. Sparse furniture. A bed. An icebox, a drawer, shower and a lamp or two. Nothing fancy, certainly nothing expensive. After this, nothing. Nothing decorated the walls of his apartment; there was nothing on the floor except parts of carpet. Nothing. It was the same everyday… Just the same… No one really cared… After all…he was just…Naruto.
Empty. Ghostly. Deathly. Dark. So many words…just so many words…to describe his apartment.
He shivered involuntarily.
He'd never imagined a home would feel this way. He'd always imagined a home…to be more like hers.
Her house was everything he wished his could be. Whenever he was there, it was just ecstasy in its purest form. Everything was just so…wonderful and it filled him with warmth just to be in her presence.
His footsteps were heavy on the gravel beneath him and his shoulders were hunched, appearing to have the whole weight of the world planted firmly on them. His footfall increased, strides taking him closer to his apartment.
The wind picked up, breeze rushing through his blonde hair. His keen nose picked up the heavy smell of ramen and his mouth creased into a small smile. Ramen never ceased to cheer him. His stomach growled a little, expressing its need for food. He was nearing Ichiraku's Ramen Shop now. Naruto knew this are by heart.
It was just across the next few streets and into the market district. He could go straight to his apartment or he could detour and head to the old man's store. He reached into his pocket, fingers seeking to grab the few bills he had. They gripped thin air and then he hesitated and plunged farther down. His fingers brushed a few jingling coins. Realization struck and his smile faded rapidly, replaced by his customary apathetic facade and sad, sad eyes.
'…Just wish it could be….'
No matter how many times…
Just never enough.
Just an illusion.
His heart folded.
Who was he kidding?
'…Just a little different…'
Naruto blinked back the tears that he felt well up deep within him. It looked like he'd be heading straight to his apartment today. He took one last yearning glance down the long street and turned, heel spinning in the gravel beneath. His eyes watered but he fought back the liquid threatening to spill out. He shoved his hands deep in his pockets and felt the fabric rip. His fists clenched and he took his rough hands out. The rhythm of his step became sluggish and tired and his worn out shoes dragged against the road beneath him.
The sun fell behind faraway hills. The shadowy outline of his figure faded away down the street and as if following him, the wind blew. Dying petals hovered in the breeze, scattering across the path in front of him. Behind, the trees whispered and the dust on the roads was kicked up. The surroundings were silent.
His footsteps echoed in the quiet.
Naruto's form died away in the dark.
Just an innocent nine year old. I was naïve to the…pleasures of the world. I remember that day clearly, vividly and it will remain fresh in my mind. After all, how can I forget my first encounter with 'it'? That day would be the first turning point in my life.
I hadn't realized what 'it' was at the time and as I look back, I can't believe how much of an idiot I was. I'd gone over to her house again, eager to receive another clue or tip-off to the riddle of words I was working on. By then I think I had forgotten the real reason I wanted to find out the perfect word…the perfect word to describe how I felt. I had become completely infatuated with her and just wanted to be in her company.
Entering the Uchiha compound had been a breeze, easiest thing in the world. I'd only done it about a thousand times…
I carefully maneuvered my way through the streets of the massive compound, jumping with excitement at the prospect of being with her again. Throwing caution to the wind, I rushed out in the empty lane before me, eyes alight with anticipation.
As I walked through the door of her house I was washed in the pungent, overwhelming smell of alcohol. Being the child I was, I paid no heed to the scent.
Naively I went on, slowly crossing the hard wood floor of the complex, just a little bit of worry clouding my thoughts, fervently searching for her.
I got more than I bargained for.
A few citizens greeted him, already familiar with the sight of the energetic blonde boy running down the street. They were fair individuals, not blinded by the ever-present prejudice of the world. And he thanked them for that. They were few…so very few.
The dust flew up all around, casting its fine layers of sand and debris into the air. Fast footfall echoed through the compound grounds.
Naruto rushed through the empty streets, feet carrying him as fast as they could. His mouth was wide, joy plastered all across his features. His eyes were alight with happiness, blue orbs sparkling wildly in the sun.
His hand gripped the door and slid it open. The loud bang echoed through the empty building. His eyes wandered for a moment and then he stepped through the threshold.
Naruto hesitated. His body halted, something telling him to stop.
His nose twitched, an oddly familiar smell reaching his senses.
It was pungent, strong, wafting through the doorway as soon as it opened. A smell so common in the red-light districts. Naruto mentally decided that it didn't belong in her house. It just didn't fit. It didn't fit her…her…the way she talked…walked…
It didn't fit.
The smell overwhelmed and his brain struggled to comprehend.
Naruto realized it was sake. Massive amounts of it.
He froze and his body fell limp. His clothes rustled a little, feet hitting solid wood, bouncing a bit from the force of the impact.
The house was deathly quiet. Usually she was around at this time, making something in the kitchen or in the living room reading.
Something was off.
The coppery smell. The tang that accompanied the odor of sake. It was familiar, so familiar. He really should have recognized it right away. So many constant wounds, constant beatings, constant lynching. He should have known.
His features turned feral.
Had someone hurt her?
Was she in danger?
His mind went into overdrive.
All logic he possessed was thrown out the window.
His blue eyes flashed dangerously.
His mouth curled into a snarl.
Without a sound he slid down the hallways, hunched over, eyes scanning the objects in his way.
No sign of Mikoto.
Adrenaline pumped through his veins.
Like a predator seeking its prey, he stalked through the silent house, listening, waiting and watching. If something had happened to Mikoto, he would never forgive himself.
If she was hurt…if she was in pain…he'd kill whoever did it to her.
She was that precious to him.
He mentally mapped out the house in his head, the gears in his brain stretching out to begin work. There was the first and second floor, the garden, the basement and finally, the only room of importance, the master bedroom…her room.
He skipped the second floor entirely, not bothering to see anything up there. She was never up on the second floor…it was like…she refused to set foot there. He had already covered most of the first floor. It was cold this time of the year, so she wouldn't be out in the gardens…
That left her bedroom.
His feet barely touched the ground as he sprinted out of the kitchen and into the hall.
It was like…he had wings…
'I'm coming Mikoto-san…please be alright…'
Finally reaching the door of her massive room, I tapped lightly on the polished wood surface. My body was coiled, ready to spring if I saw an intruder. All I got was a muffled groan as a response. Taking stupidity to new heights I slipped through the slightly ajar door, worried out of my mind. I feared the worst, feared that something had happened to her.
As I stepped into the shadows of the dimly lit room, silky, feminine arms wrapped around me from behind. I tensed from the contact. A soft, small hand wandered slowly on my chest, fingers dancing here or there for a few seconds, as if exploring a new concept. Hot breath traveled across my body, slowly inching up the base of my neck toward my ear. Another hand wandered across my face, paused, and then stroked my cheek, caressing my hot flesh.
I didn't dare to move, already familiar with the concept of being captured and beaten. I really had no idea who it was or what they were going to do. You can imagine my relief when I heard her voice.
I just fell limp in her arms, feeling the anxiety melt away from my emotions.
"Naruto-chan…have you figured out the riddle yet?"
I don't really remember what I had said. I think all my mind processed was the alcohol tainting her once fresh breath and the fact that her hand was slowly inching under my shirt.
"Poor Naru-chan…if you never figure out the riddle…you'll never have any…"
I just remained relaxed in her grasp, trusting that she would never harm me. She was my angel…
"But Mikoto-san…what are you talking about? Are you okay?"
I heard her sigh. And it wasn't the normal sigh she usually used. A sigh of just being tired. This was a long drawn out sigh, a depressed sigh is the best I can describe it. Her gripped slacked around me and for a moment I thought she was going to let me go.
She began to speak, but her voice faltered. In the same moment her smooth hands clasped around me tighter, gripping me as if their fate depended on it. I felt her chin come to rest on my shoulder and could feel her hot breath on my neck.
Her hand stopped its movement under my shirt, hovering momentarily over the skin, brushing lightly against it, tickling me. I waited for her answer amid the heavy breathing and silence. Another sigh came from her mouth and she spoke, a soft whisper reaching my ears, shaking me to the core,
"I'm alright Naruto-chan…I'm alright…it's just sometimes…I'm so tired and…sometimes…sometimes…I wish it were different…"
There was silence from her after that and I didn't know what to say. The pungent smell of sake still wafted around me, but I ignored it, mind working to unravel her words. As I look back, I realize during our conversation and my first experience with 'it', she probably was a little bit drunk.
"I'll be different…I'll make both of us different…"
At the time I didn't really know what she meant, but I was willing to do anything to help her…