A Different Perspective
by Book of Changes
Rating: M for Language
Main Cast: Kakashi, Iruka, Naruto
Summary: (AU) Kakashi prepared himself for the worst when he was saddled with the Kyuubi-no-gaki, a.k.a. Naruto. He did not, however, expect this.
Disclaimer: This story is based on situations and characters created and owned by Masashi Kishimoto, and various publishers including but not limited to TV Tokyo
Sadly, Book of Changes has abandoned this wonderful story, so I, Kage Husha, have posted it here for those who wish to read it. Please, do not ask for updates. This is it.
The Delayed Apologia
Kakashi scrambled to find a tactful way of saying: 'Naruto, you're an orphan. You don't have parents. This old coot has to be a fake. I can't believe a cunning little bastard like you didn't realize this… though from the way you called the guy 'old coot', I'm guessing you're not entirely convinced.'
Needless to say, his delay brought failure in every… conceivable… venue.
"Naruto, don't you realize—" Iruka started.
"—of course I know the guy is either fake or loony—" Naruto said at the same time.
"—But you said you were mixed wine—" Sasuke started saying also.
Someone slugged Sasuke and sent him skidding all the way to the edge of the stairway. He would have toppled over had he not grabbed the railing.
That was Ino and Sakura screaming in unison. While Ino slowly barged over— Shikamaru and Chouji trying but failing to stop her from making any progress— Sakura looked around to find the perpetrator of the outrage…
…and just stopped.
Lee was standing at the place of attack, his fist thrust forward and unbridled rage blazing in his eyes. Next to him was Gai, smothering Naruto in his bosom, muttering reassuring nonsense in a fairly soft voice. But what really must have halted Sakura in her steps was the sight of Naruto doing absolutely nothing—no yelling, no flailing, nothing.
There was a tenuous silence.
"…Naruto?" Sakura tried.
No reaction. Some time later Hayate requested (with a hint of a bellow) Ino and Sakura to come down and Kakashi-senpai and Gai-senpai to restrain their students, please, this is the second time. But no one from Team Kakashi or Team Gai moved.
Iruka stepped in.
"Sakura, go. I'll take care of this."
Sakura reluctantly left the balcony. As soon as she left, Iruka turned to Lee and Gai.
"Lee, calm down. Gai-sensei, please let go of him."
Gai let go of Naruto and stood at attention alongside Lee. For a spell, Iruka just stared at Naruto's exposed face.
"Get serious, Ino," Sakura said down in the tournament hall. "I have no time for anything less than a whole-hearted opponent."
The uncharacteristic severity of Sakura's voice broke the spell.
"I think he's having a nervous breakdown," Iruka said.
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Kakashi looked. It took him everything not to yelp.
"Looks like catatonic shellshock to me…"
And it really did. Naruto's entire body was rigid and his face was stuck holding a shattered expression of raw hurt. To top it all, he was crying and the tears didn't stop.
"It's probably E-brain Death Syndrome, sir."
Lee's calm and polite words set alarm bells all over the place.
"It used to be the number one killer of e-brain users, sir," Lee explained. "The real cause is unknown, but it usually happens after e-brain overuse or events that accrue high levels of stress."
Iruka stared at him. "You're awfully calm about this."
"You told me to be calm, sir," Lee said.
Kakashi didn't think Lee was capable of sarcasm. "You're not worried about Naruto dying, are you?"
"No, sir," Lee took out a hanky and started drying Naruto's eyes. "No one dies of EDS anymore. That's why some people call it 'e-Brain Freeze Syndrome' since you can still become catatonic after overuse — or after a really bad shock."
There was a short pause. In the background, Sakura and Ino were shouting invectives at each other.
"…It was the word 'mixed wine,' wasn't it?" Kakashi said. "It shocked him so much he got stuck in it."
"Of course it was that term," Gai growled. "Don't you know what it means?"
"First time I heard it," Kakashi said.
Iruka and Neji shook their heads also. Faced with so much ignorance, Gai screwed up his face as he tried to think of a way to explain.
"Do you know where Niiminjin babies come from?" Gai eventually asked.
Oh fuck. Kakashi considered ritual suicide. Iruka covered his face. Sasuke looked away, thus betraying the fact he knew enough about Niiminjin birds and bees to feel ashamed. Neji alone stared at Gai like he couldn't believe his teacher was asking a rhetorical question— which he wasn't— at a time like this.
"…From a mother's womb?" Neji said.
"No, my dear Neji," said Gai. "More than half of them are conceived outside of the womb, and then born through women who are more often than not unrelated to them."
Neji didn't look like he got that.
"They breed babies like racehorses, kid," Kakashi said in blunter terms. "And bake their buns in a foreign oven."
Disbelief displaced the confusion. "…What?"
"It's true," Iruka said, covering Lee's mouth (and his potentially apoplectic remark). "Niiminjin's 'human factories' are churning out parentless embryos even as we speak, and the poor families from Mist Country and Water Country are sending their teenaged daughters to Niiminjin in the droves so they get paid being surrogate mothers."
The stunned silence increased in disbelief.
"And you knew that, didn't you, Sasuke?" Iruka said.
"…He told me he went through a process known as 'mixing wine' before he was born," Sasuke said slowly. "He said people like him aren't exactly uncommon…"
"And he also told you that you can use the word freely."
Lee wrenched Iruka's hand off of his mouth.
"How could you?" Lee demanded. "Naruto-kun trusted you with that secret! And you must have known he was entrusting you with a secret! So how could you betray him like this?"
"Who betrayed who?"
Everyone turned around and there was Naruto, looking as normal as can be.
"NARUTO-KUN!" To Kakashi's horror, Lee tackle-hugged Naruto and started planting kisses all over his face (not the mouth, not the mouth, please, not the mouth!), "You're all right! I was so worried! I was—"
Naruto halted the procession of horror by placing his hand on Lee's forehead.
"Didn't we decide not to use Niiminjin customs in Konoha?" Naruto said, sounding only mildly discomfited and not at all ashamed. Then he added, "Be careful now. You don't want to be unnecessarily shamed."
Lee seemed to consider the warning rather seriously. During his deliberation, what seemed like everyone in the tournament hall held their breath(s). Then, to Kakashi's utter horror, Lee made a careless tossing gesture over his shoulder and put a big smacking kiss on Naruto's forehead before releasing him.
The hall was immediately filled with girly screams.
"Oh bother," Naruto muttered. "I was afraid of that…"
He suddenly looked down at the battle arena as if he just noticed something.
"Oh, Sakura-chan is fighting!" He waved his hands about. "GO SAKURA-CHAN! WUP HER ASS!"
"…NARUTO!" Sakura snarled. "IF YOU LET LEE-SAN KISS YOU AGAIN I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!"
Naruto saluted cheerfully, "HAAAAI!"
"Diversion," Iruka said as everyone cheerfully and purposefully forgot the past events. He didn't look at all happy about it.
Kakashi crossed his arms. "We'll see about that."
The match resumed, and the teachers observed Sasuke and waited for their cue. The way Sasuke kept flickering his eyes back and forth from the match to Naruto showed how he was humming and hawing over the unpleasant task he was morally compelled to do. Naruto, for his part, didn't notice Sasuke's internal conflict, and devoted his attention on Sakura and Lee.
"Beautiful movement," Lee said. "But Sakura-san's opponent is good too. They are even."
"I wouldn't say that," said Naruto. "Sakura-chan hasn't gone all out yet."
Sakura rapidly gained the upper hand. It was mostly due to the fact Sakura was impervious to Ino's kicks and punches, which in turn was due to Sakura's excellent use of an armoring technique Iruka had taught her three months back.
"See? I told you she hasn't gone all out yet," Naruto said when Lee noticed the armoring effect.
The battle raged on. Ino became more and more frustrated as time went by, and Sakura became more and more confident and aggressive. But Sasuke wasn't looking at the match at all, but neither was he making any attempt to head towards Naruto. His stalemate suggested he was leaning towards the option of waiting out until Naruto forgot about his blunder. This wasn't an unreasonable option normally, seeing how Naruto was remarkably lenient with him.
A subtle change came over Sasuke's face, when Ino and Sakura punched each other's mug simultaneously. Ino was the only one who flew back from the blow.
"Shit," Ino growled as she got to her feet. "THERE'S NO WAY YOU CAN BE EVEN WITH ME!" she raged.
"Of course not," Kakashi could hear the smirk from Sakura's voice. "How can I be at the same level as someone who can't even hit me properly? Not to mention obsessed with her hair and appearance…"
That really struck a nerve.
"YOU! HOW DARE YOU!" Ino screamed.
A few moments later, there was an awful ripping noise, followed by a war cry.
"ORAAAAA! I DON'T NEED THIS!"
Now she's done it, Kakashi thought as he watched from the corner of his eye Ino scatter her freshly chopped-off ponytail all over the floor. From the other corner of his eye, he noticed Sasuke was keeping his eyes stubbornly fixed on the battle arena, where Ino was shouting: "I'm going to end this fight right now! I'll make you say 'I give up!' in front of Sasuke-kun!"
I don't think he gives a flying fuck, Kakashi thought as Iruka took a step towards Sasuke.
"I know two words that will properly resolve your blunder," Iruka said in a by-the-way tone.
Sasuke's whole body jerked in surprise. He stared at Iruka for one terrified moment, then dropped his glance and refused to lift up his face.
"Maybe you're thinking Naruto would let this one go," Iruka said. "And I don't doubt he would. But this isn't the first time something like this has happened, is it?"
No answer…Guilty again.
"Unresolved hurts don't disappear with time," Iruka went on. "You should know that better than anyone. He's all right now—" his eyes flickered to Naruto— "but he has his limits."
"But he doesn't-" Sasuke started.
"Did he never?" Iruka interrupted.
Sasuke shut his mouth. Kakashi, who knew Iruka was alluding to the events from two years ago, wondered if Sasuke was the witness Iruka mentioned.
Sasuke's shoulders sagged. "…Okay, just… not now."
"Do it soon," Iruka advised. "Delay only makes it worse."
"HECK, YEAH! WOOHOOOOOOO!"
The ear-shattering whoop made Sasuke start so badly he almost tripped over his own feet. The guilty parties, Naruto and Lee, were doing some kind of victory tango/jig/salsa thingamajiggie in clear violation against their decision to not use Niiminjin customs in Konoha. Down in the battle arena, Ino was knocked out and splattered with screaming yellow paint, and Sakura was standing in front of a trail of blond hair shaped like a rope, with a smoking gun in her hands.
"What the heck happened?" Iruka asked.
"Oh Iruka-sensei you should have seen it!" Naruto gushed. "Ino faked a Shintenshin and trapped Sakura-chan with her freaking hair, but Sakura-chan didn't lose her cool, she shot her with the paint gun I gave her, ohmygawsh it was so cool!"
Kakashi could almost see Sasuke's resolve curl up and die after confronting such overwhelming jubilance. Kakashi had to feel sorry for the guy, really. Looks like you're channeling my bad timing, you poor bastard…
Iruka put his hand on Sasuke's shoulder, and gave Sasuke an encouraging smile.
"…You'll find your cue," he said.
As it turned out, Sasuke didn't get another chance to apologize, at least, not during the prelims.
The seventh match was Hyuuga Neji verses Hyuuga Hinata. The sheer level of difference between the two Hyuuga progeny was only exacerbated by Neji's poisonous hatred against the main Hyuuga family and Hinata's timid nature. When the match was over—Neji won far too easily, despite and considering Hinata's desperate efforts—Naruto was too upset to listen to anything unrelated.
Kakashi had hoped Naruto would be able to calm down during the eighth match, but instead, Lee verses Gaara of the Desert happened. If Hinata's match was unfair in the extreme, Lee's match was the epitome of injustice. Naruto was so upset he couldn't even scream bloody murder at the (obviously deranged) Suna Genin like he did at Neji.
Then, as if that wasn't enough, the ninth and final match was Kankuro verses Naruto.
The Naruto that went down to the battle arena for the second time was a picture of dejection. His head was bowed low, his shoulders were hunched and his feet dragged with each step. There was no way Kankuro wouldn't rub salt on such obvious wounds.
"Let me repeat puppy-boy's words: you're absolutely pathetic," Kankuro sneered. "I won't even ask if you call yourself a ninja, because you're so obviously not."
Naruto didn't answer, but his head dipped further.
"Why don't you just give it up and go running to your friends?" Kankuro further taunted. "I'm sure no one will think any less of you—you can't go any lower, after all."
Naruto's chin practically touched his chest. His hands, which were holding his either arm just above the elbow, tightened its grip.
Then Naruto let out a gusting sigh.
"…I forgive you," He said. "And I love you, just like your sister."
He looked up. Naruto's face was set, and his hands were down and ready for battle.
Hayate smiled faintly. Kankuro, on the other hand, contorted his face.
"…Fucking freaks, the whole fucking lot of you," he growled.
Naruto made a ghost of a smile, "I forgive you for that too."
"Begin!" Hayate called out.
"I'm not supposed to use this," Naruto muttered as Kankuro removed the bandaged package on his shoulders. "But I have no choice."
Iruka realized what Naruto was going to do before Kakashi.
"Naruto, don't!" he shouted.
But it was either too late or no use. Naruto drew his hand back in a familiar stance, and then thrust his palm forward. The gale wind that followed sent both Kankuro and his package flying. Naruto ran after the airborne Kankuro, and snapped his fingers at his direction in an ominously familiar way.
What happened afterwards could only be described as: KABOOM.
Once Kakashi's ears stopped ringing and his eye regained its sight, he surveyed the arena. He was unsurprised to see Kankuro lying in a crumpled heap against a wall, with everything from him to his surrounding area within five meters smoking.
"What was that?" Neji whispered to no one in particular.
"Naruto calls it Jiigoku no Laiita (Lighter from Hell)," Kakashi said. "I call it Match Fire Jutsu Gone Wrong."
Neji gaped at Kakashi. Sasuke, on the other hand, clicked his tongue.
"The bastard doesn't have a single burn. He just got knocked out from the impact." Sasuke looked at Naruto, who was walking away from the scene, and shook his head. "He's too nice for his own good…"
"…Winner is Uzumaki Naruto," Hayate announced. "And thus so concludes the preliminaries."
"Naruto opened a can of worms I'm not sure he'll be able to handle," Iruka said as the winning Genin stood at attention in front of Sandaime so they could be properly dismissed.
"Perhaps," Kakashi said. "But I have a feeling he would have become a high priority contender even if he didn't use that jutsu. He did exceptionally well without it."
Iruka shook his head. "That's not what I'm worried about. I'm worried because that Gaara-no-yaro may identify Naruto as 'Jeromi' because of that jutsu." His eyes flickered to Temari and Gaara. "I don't know why, but the idea fills me with dread."
Kakashi considered it. He had no doubt Iruka's intuition was on the mark; he'd seen the deranged look on Gaara's face as he/she mercilessly crushed Lee under a waterfall of sand, after all. And if the redhead decided to mark Naruto, then knowing Naruto's second identity would only make it easier for the kid to track him.
'Jeromi' has to disappear until the finals, Kakashi decided. It shouldn't be that hard. I have to prepare all three of them, anyway. I'll take them to the cliffs and not let them return until the month is up—
"Naruto looks like he's two seconds away from throwing up!" Iruka whispered in alarm. Right after he finished saying that, Naruto started to puke his guts out in front of Sandaime, who was telling the surviving Genin that they were to use the month before the finals for rest and restoration.
"…As I was saying," Sandaime said. "The month break is for your benefit. Use it well."
—I need to do something about that vomiting, Kakashi thought as he watched the medics lead Naruto away from the rest of the Genin. I don't suppose Iruka can take a month sabbatical from the Academy. And I can't stop Naruto from using Heavy Chakra. He won't listen, and besides, it's his greatest asset. Damnit, what should I do…?
Kakashi was still trying to come up with a workable plan when Anko went through every Genin (except Naruto; he was taken to the Infirmary because of his staccato projectile puking), and all of them drew out a piece of paper out of the box she was holding.
"Now, I'd like you to tell us the number on the paper you just drew, starting from the left," Sandaime said.
"Five," said Sasuke.
"F-four," said Sakura.
"Eight," said Temari.
"…Three." That was Gaara.
"One," said Neji.
"Six," said Shino.
"Seven," Shikamaru said.
"Good," said Sandaime. "Ibiki, show them the match arrangements."
Ibiki held up the clipboard he'd been using to write down the names. For a while, the Genin studied the tournament chart. Kakashi studied it too, and felt a headache building.
Sakura's first opponent is Gaara of the fucking Desert, Kakashi pinched the bridge of his nose. How the bloody fuck am I going to prepare her for that…?
Meanwhile, Sandaime explained to the Genin how the final tournament was going to work.
"A panel of judges made up of Daimyo, village elders, the Kazekage and I will be evaluating your abilities throughout the tournament," he said. "Those whom the judges deem to have the necessary qualities of a Chuunin will be promoted to Chuunin. Winning is not necessary, but advancing in the tournament will give you more chances to appeal to the judges."
"So it's possible everyone here will become Chuunin?" Temari asked.
"Yes," said Sandaime. "But it is possible no one here will become a Chuunin."
Sandaime finished his address with a note of congratulations, and dismissed the Genin. The Genin dispersed, some heading towards their teachers, and others merely leaving. Iruka took his cue and headed to the infirmary.
Kakashi converged with his not-sick students, who were walking towards him.
"Good job you two," Kakashi said.
Sakura practically glowed with pride. Sasuke just looked away.
"But, unfortunately, we don't have time to celebrate," Kakashi gave them a look. "You understand that, right?"
They nodded. Good.
"Let's go to the Infirmary," Kakashi said. "Iruka-sensei should be there already. Once Naruto stops throwing up, I'll go over what we're going to do." Hopefully I'll have some idea by then…
…I wonder if these two made the connection between Naruto and 'Jeromi', Kakashi thought as he walked behind Sakura and Sasuke. He didn't get to go down that lane of thought because 'Jeromi' brought forth an intriguing idea that just might work.
Kakashi had most of the details worked out by the time they arrived at the infirmary. He felt a tickle of suspicion when Sakura knocked on the door, and felt it explode when Sakura opened the door.
Still, when he actually saw the scene behind the door, Kakashi almost blinked.
The medics were scattered around a blood-covered floor, dead or unconscious. The injured Genin were suspiciously silent in their beds. That odd Genin, Yakushi Kabuto, was standing in front of Naruto's bed with a knife out.
And there, in the middle of the room, driving a Chakra-knife into a medic's body was Iruka.