Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Masashi Kishimoto does.
The Colours of the Soul (One-shot)
When asked what colour they would associate Naruto with, many people –those that judge by appearances- would say: orange.
Bright, blinding orange... Annoying, happy orange… It was often a common subject that cropped up in idle gossips, especially during conversations that discussed the blonde's lousy fashion sense.
One day, a retrieval mission went slightly wrong. There was an ambush while on their way back. It was just unfortunate that there had been a chemical specialist among the attackers. The next he knew, they were rushing to the white, white hospital, their dirty clothes splattered with deep red blood.
He watched as Tsunade wrapped bandages around Naruto's eyes. He barely heard her say it would heal, but eventually. The youngster staggered around the room with arms outstretched, testing senses in a darkened world. He felt more lost than his tripping student.
Naruto had become colourless…
Despite his orange clothes, despite his yellow hair.
Sakura threw herself into more training with Tsunade, distraught that she couldn't have done anything. Sai followed Naruto around like some big, black, Inuzuka guard dog. He and Yamato both watched from afar, hoping the blonde wouldn't kill himself in weak attempts of continuing his usual lifestyle without sight. However, Naruto was thrilled at it all.
"This has to be the most awesome training I've ever had!" he heard the blonde exclaim one afternoon at Ichiraku's. The boy was hunched over his bowl of food, clumsily trying to eat the ramen he couldn't see. Iruka worried quietly at that remark and then took the bowl from his young comrade. Kakashi himself hadn't known whether to sigh or laugh at Naruto's optimism, so he just mulled around and considered the words.
"That is actually a good idea," he said, and Naruto whipped his head around to face his general direction. Iruka glared at him with a look that said he wasn't helping and stuffed another round of ramen into the blonde's babbling mouth. Naruto hacked and choked before finally swallowing his food.
"Let's start right now!" his student yelled once his airway cleared, then fell out of his chair in his excitement. Iruka growled lowly and narrowed his eyes, then gestured the pair of chopsticks in his face threateningly.
"Don't you dare, Hatake Kakashi!" The utensil almost poked his eye out. "Naruto needs to rest for this period of time! If I ever see you doing anything…"
But he and Naruto were both defiant people.
"Sensing someone else's chakra is just like sensing your own. The only difference is that it's further away and maybe hidden. All you need is concentration."
Naruto shouted from across the field. "But I don't have that!" He chuckled at the blonde's confession. "Don't you have anything else that can help me here?!" Kakashi shook his head before remembering that the other couldn't see his action.
"Too bad for you," he replied, "It's going to be hard to become Hokage without that." Naruto huffed at the obvious taunt. "You'll need a lot of patience and concentration in training like this. Even honing your listening skills requires that."
He spent the better half of the day striding across the lawn, ruffling the grass wherever he went. His student moved around clumsily in vague directions and fell many, many times. Sometimes he decided to be silent, and the genin would inevitably become vexed. Deciding to keep the initial sessions short, he ended it after an hour or so. Naruto flopped under a shady tree he had been led to.
"Hard isn't it?" he asked after a pause. Naruto turned his head again in habit.
"Was it like this for you too?" was the reply as a question. "Without the darkness at least, I mean."
Kakashi's hand instinctively went up to his covered eye.
"It took quite a bit of adjusting," he admitted. "Seeing with only one eye can affect one's perception of distance and depth. But if I use the Sharingan together as a pair, it uses up my chakra fast." Naruto's lips parted in open amazement.
"How long did it take?" the blonde asked and Kakashi watched to see any signs defeat. He was satisfied that there was none. Naruto was still determined.
"Less than two weeks," he said, deeming it safe to answer. "But I was only just getting comfortable with the change. You do understand that the situations are different, right?"
Naruto smiled and nodded from the ground, brown leaves catching on his hair. "When do you think I can try throwing weapons again?" he asked, thinking of the possibilities that lay ahead. Kakashi place a hand on his chin and made a big show of pondering.
"Not so soon, I imagine. I'll fear for my life." Naruto laughed in great amusement.
"Oh, come on! I'm not that bad! I do know how to throw quite well!"
"That's exactly it," he felt his eye crinkle. "You can hit. You just can't aim."
The air was filled with merry laughter.
But he thought Naruto was still somewhat colourless. His clothes blended in with the fallen leaves.
Whenever Sai wasn't acting as an overprotective bodyguard, the root Anbu was off helping Sakura gather medical books from the library. Hence, it wasn't surprising that they usually turn up at the same time to visit their friend. Naruto used to comment loudly that they were trying to best each other in a book reading contest. More than once it earned him a playful, but still painful, knock on the head, all courtesy of the pink-haired kunoichi. Now, Naruto don't joke about it anymore, whenever Sakura was around that is. But if the blonde could not help his sense of humour, he at least made a point to take precautionary measures.
"I bet they've cleaned out all of Konoha by now," he heard a whisper in his ear. An elbow nudged him gently afterwards. "Help me write a letter to Gaara, sensei. I want to ask him if Sai has raided Suna."
But despite the frequent fun and jokes, it was clear that Naruto appreciated the attention. If Kakashi was in his place, he felt that he would too. They gathered there, a dysfunctional family, and he knew Naruto would love it no matter how strange. It was through loss, or absence, that made people treasure whatever good that comes their way. Sakura moved about fussing about this and that –the mission, his eyes, the room, the mess- and Naruto just sat there and listened and beamed, all the emotion contained in his smile.
Sai must be dazzled, he thought. The root Anbu stood there watching, fixated by the scene.
"-And it's not just the one they used on you. We're working on all the other poisons we found with their corpses," Sakura was saying. "Soon, we'll find an effective antidote that can help your eyes heal better. The minute residues stuck could create a problem. In the meantime, train properly you hear?" She squished his cheeks, her hands cupping his face, as if trying to get her words across through contact. Kakashi thought perhaps the Godaime had influenced her; Tsunade loved punching others to express herself.
"Yes, Sakura-chan!" Naruto practically sang and gave her a mock salute. She pinched and pulled at his cheeks in return, both miffed and amused at his lack of seriousness.
The two left a quarter of an hour later to do more research. Naruto rubbed the sides of his face to ease the soreness.
"Everything else seems magnified when you lose your sight," his charge said, fingers brushing against the red tinged skin. "Every touch becomes unexpected. I think my nerves are still tingling."
"Then find a way to make it expected," he advised. Naruto sat still and listened, intrigued. "Sometimes I find that we as ninjas depend too much on our eyesight. It becomes a liability when we are faced with its loss. Remember Zabuza and his 'hidden in the mist' technique?" Blonde hair waved as his student nodded solemnly. "At times like that, you have to rely on much of your listening and touch. Being able to feel the slightest change in air flow can save your life-"
He put it on the agenda list for their current training.
"-others can feel the air to track weather patterns. Usually they are the ones who trained since they were little- Naruto, are you still listening to me?" Through it all, there had been an odd silence.
"Of course I am," the other frowned. "What makes you think that I wasn't?"
"You've just been so quiet," he informed. Naruto made an indignant sound.
"When I'm loud, everyone thinks I am not listening. When I'm silent, everyone still thinks I am not listening. You'll think there would be a differentiation, but nooo... Even ero-sennin almost got a heart attack! Now I'm blind, do you think I'm still not listening?"
"Ah, I see. Sensei is sorry," he quickly pacified. "…Maybe I'm the one not listening or looking."
That evening, Iruka came to take over the night to morning shift. Hours later, Naruto heard the messenger bird arrive before the chuunin did. Iruka unfurled the letter and read it out loud. It was just a shame Naruto couldn't see the expression on his face.
"No foreigner has come to ask for access to our archives…" Iruka sounded bewildered, "But one 'Haruno Sakura' did request some herbs two days ago. Her letter came, three pages long, on a swift bird that looked to be drawn in ink."
The blonde fell into peals of laughter and forgave him the next morning. Naruto was now an unidentifiable colour.
One day, the Hyuuga children came over. Neji insisted he was just escorting Hinata. But despite the aloof attitude he displayed outwards, the young jounin had been the one who asked most of the questions. Actually, Hinata had only asked the first.
"H-How are your eyes, Naruto-kun?" she inquired, watching nervously as Naruto balanced a tray of tea and glided carefully to the table. The blonde replied that it was good. Sakura was close to coming up with the antidote.
"You look… disturbing," Neji said, and there was a gasp of horror as Hinata told him not to be rude. Kakashi saw he was staring at Naruto bandages, probably boring into where the eyes would be.
"You're one to talk," his student merely grinned, and Neji remained still as though he had not just been insulted. "It's only going to be wrapped up for a while. It's not like it'll be permanent, geez." The Hyuuga male just 'hn'ed' in reply.
Kakashi thought he was missing something. He then vaguely realised that it was not what Neji had been talking about.
"Oh yeah, Iruka-sensei bought some cake yesterday. I'll bring it out. Just give me some time to find it…"
Naruto turned to head back to the kitchen and Hinata piped up that she would help. They disappeared into the next room. The two of them were left sitting at the small table.
"It's the eyes, isn't it?" he asked. "I think I felt the same way too."
Neji nodded in reply. "Yes. I always said Naruto had the best eyes. It's just a bit disconcerting to see that it's damaged, even though the wound is only physical."
Kakashi hummed in total agreement.
"However…" Neji paused, somewhat dramatic, "Don't let this blind you still." He felt extremely curious. "Naruto still has a soul behind those eyes. The eyes merely enhance his entire being. Don't judge just because you can't see it. Maybe one day, you'll understand."
The Hyuuga made him more confused. Kakashi thinks the first chuunin exam must have made the other more damaged in the head.
"No, Naruto-kun! I'll do it for you!" Hinata's panicked voice drifted in through the doorway. There was a slight scuffling of footsteps in the kitchen beyond as the two inside were apparently fighting over something.
"Don't worry, Hinata!" Naruto's cheerful voice followed after. "I know where I'm cutting just fine!" There was a chink of metal against relatively thin glass, and then there was a loud thump.
"Hinata? Hinata?!" Naruto called. "Kakashi-sensei! Neji, come quickly!"
They bolted from their seats at the cry for help.
Hinata laid out cold on the floor, having worried herself sick that Naruto would cut off his poor fingers. The blonde stood at a little counter with a knife in his hand, proportionately sliced pieces of cake standing innocently on a glass plate.
He thinks Naruto could be white.
They had moved on to weapon throwing. He calculated the chance of being killed by stray projectiles was less than thirty percent. Ten if he included the fact that he was a jounin.
A kunai hit the branch he had landed on. Kakashi leapt off to the next location.
Naruto stood among the trees of the forest, changing position every few times to fling a weapon in his direction. Seventy percent of the throws hit within acceptable distance. Sometimes the blonde leapt over the roots after him when he got further away, even daring to climb onto the lower branches a couple of times. Other times, he made shadow clones to help him. The few scraps and dirt stains on his clothes indicated the times when he failed, but Kakashi was pleased with his progress nevertheless.
"Very good, Naruto. And it's only been a little over a month," he praised. His student beamed up at him, glowing. "And I think Sakura is almost ready with the antidote too. You'll be seeing again very soon."
To his utmost surprise, Naruto looked rather disappointed.
"Though I don't wish to remain like this forever, it's a bit of a pity still. I was getting use to this," the other said a little sadly, the previous smile lost from his lips. "But of course, seeing again would be great," he added. "What did Sakura-chan say again? About half a week?"
Kakashi confirmed it with a firm 'yes'.
"Will you still train me like this, Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto hopefully asked, and he was reminded of a similar request the blonde had made during the first chuunin exam. "It's been the most useful thing I've ever learnt."
How could he ever refuse? So he said: "Of course, if you still wish for me to."
Facing Naruto's smile was like being blinded by the sun. His student breathed in the freshness of the air and hollered to continue the session.
This time, as he weaved through the trees being pursued, he thinks Naruto could be white-gold like the fire in the sky, or even green like the leaves of a promising generation.
The next day, Naruto was dragged out to Yakiniku Q by Chouji, who lamented that he was getting thin due to being cooped up in the house most of the time. When they stepped in through the entranceway, it was to Kakashi's surprise that he saw the entire rookie nine (eight plus Sai) and Gai's team gathered there.
"It's done, Naruto!" Sakura squealed as Chouji brought the blonde to a seat, and there was a surge of noise as the others congratulated him. Kiba and Lee were the most exuberant. "Tsunade-shissou says to come to the hospital tomorrow morning! She's making some more just in case!" Sakura grabbed Naruto by the arm happily, wanting to place him on the seat next to hers. They ended up squishing Ino to one side and the young woman complained loudly.
"Watch it, forehead-girl!" she squirmed and shoved back. "It's not as though your big butt isn't already hogging all the space!"
There was a slight squabble as the two fought. Naruto was unfortunately trapped between them.
"Why don't you watch it, Ino?" Shikamaru interrupted, having something important to say. "Naruto's arm will be the one cooking on the barbecue if you don't stop." Sure enough, his hand was resting less than a centimeter away from the grill.
Hinata squeaked and pulled Ino away, situating herself beside her crush. It was a move that she under normal circumstances wouldn't make, and at the other end of the table from where she came, Kiba, and even Shino, looked on amused.
As the afternoon passed, it was evident Naruto had gotten good at feeding himself. Kakashi had seen him practice with ramen every day, savouring the taste. At one point, the blonde even managed to snatch his piece of meat away from a greedy Chouji, a feat that sent Lee howling in admiration. Naruto sat there biting the tips of the chopsticks with a mischievous smile on his face, and said all the credit went to Kakashi. Gai's mini clone rushed at him and gushed out words of respect, claiming that if he could not do the same by the end of the day, he would make himself blind as well. An exasperated Neji and Tenten both smacked Lee out of daily annoyance.
"Must make sure you have fun too after all," Naruto whispered playfully once the blonde had felt his way to his side. "I was thinking since Gai-sensei isn't around, Lee could liven up things in his stead."
Kakashi groaned and whispered back, "Do me a favour and don't, please."
He was getting familiar with Naruto's joyful laughter. He decided he liked it very much. Sitting there surrounded by the scents of food and chatter of voices, Kakashi now thinks Naruto is gold like the ambiance.
When Naruto stepped out of the hospital room the next morning, his eyes were still bandaged shut. For a heart stopping moment, Kakashi thought the antidote had not worked. Naruto stopped him with a shake of his head.
"I just want to train like this for a little longer."
They went back to the practice grounds.
A large, blue lake stood in the middle of everything, flanked by grass fields and isolated trees. Forests and hills stood in the distance, watching quietly. Here he could get a clear view of the cloudless sky. It was a marvelous day. Naruto followed him to the edge of the crystal waters.
"We'll be doing chakra control exercises today. You should be familiar with water walking." Naruto nodded. "The only difference this time is that you won't be able to see the water. Trust in your own instincts. Go."
A black sandaled foot slipped onto the water surface, kicking the stones that protruded out of the shallow water. Naruto stumbled a bit at first, before using all his past lessons to feel his way slowly around the obstacles. Sometimes, curious fishes came to nibble. At other times, water weeds entangled his feet. But the blonde learns fast, and the waters were calm. Soon, Naruto was at the middle of the lake.
He was an orange blob against the blue, blue backdrop…
"Naruto," he called, suddenly curious. "Remove your bandages, will you?"
"Why?" the other called back, confused by his sudden request. Kakashi didn't really know.
"I guess I just want to see your eyes."
Naruto was silent for a second. "Is this another one of your attempts to weird me out?" he asked incredulously, hesitant to head back to shore. "I'm not going near you if you are."
Kakashi almost chuckled. "Don't be silly. Come here. Maybe you will see it too."
The next moment Naruto was before him, slipping off the wraps around his head. The bandages fell away, white upon the green grass, and the blonde's eyes blinked and fluttered as they adjusted to the light. When they were open, wide open, the jounin inhaled deeply. The irises were just as blue as the scene, but definitely much more vibrant.
"What am I supposed to be seeing?" Naruto asked, obviously unable to see his own eyes without a mirror. The teen looked a little uncomfortable at the gazing.
"When you became blind, somehow I thought you lost your colour."
Naruto was completely lost. "Huh?"
"Neji said something about it too," he continued. "I think he meant your eyes are the most alive. So when they were hidden, it felt strange looking at you, almost like you have lost something."
His student stared at him like he had grown another head. "But… I'm just me. What have eyes or colour got to do with anything?"
Kakashi nodded. "Exactly. Neji said something along those lines." He only made Naruto more confused.
There was silence for a while.
"So… You think my colour is… blue?" the blonde took another stab at understanding. Kakashi pondered for a while.
"Well, yes… and no," he answered in contradiction. Naruto gave up and swiped at him irritably.
"You are officially the weirdest sensei I've ever had!" he exclaimed as Kakashi dodged. "I told you to make all explanations simple!" Kakashi laughed and ruffled his hair, knowing Naruto would never understand.
Today, Naruto was an ocean blue, as volatile as the seas that calmed and raged. Perhaps that would be his most common colour.
But maybe it would be more accurate to describe him as: colourful.
After all, a person was not as simple as just one colour.
Author's predicted response from readers: "What the (insert cuss words here)?! What the hell are you writing about?!"
Frankly, I was writing a story based on a picture. I trust everyone who's following the current anime would remember a scene in the latest opening (Shippuuden opening theme 3) where Naruto is standing in the middle of a lake, a bright orange contrast to the blue background. I felt rather mesmerized by it because I think it symbolised his eyes, so I kept writing and writing and so on. As a result, this strange piece was born instead of the very short one I had intended to do. If you're confused, just think of it as Kakashi getting to know Naruto better. If you are still confused...think of it as an abstract.
Hope you enjoyed it anyway. Feel free to complain if you hadn't (but please don't be rude).