Blind Experience

When Naruto was 12 years old, Konoha's civil war ended. Naruto, a chuunin for a year and a "war hero" a few times over, whatever that meant, was required to attend the sentencing and execution of the few members of the Uchiha clan still alive, with the exception of three.

The sentencing was to be public, in some vain attempt to give all the people who had fought on the winning side closure. For the relatives lost and the trust broken when their own police force turned on them. Naruto thought the whole thing was a little stupid, really, since there were a grand total of fifteen Uchiha still alive, three excepted, and of those fifteen four were under the age of three and six were too old to fight. It didn't really matter what Naruto thought, though. Konoha declared them traitors publically in the middle of the village, then gouged out their eyes and killed them. All of them. Even the children.

That day, watching a little girl, who'd been born in the middle of a conflict that had nothing to do with her, scream and writhe in agony before bleeding to death, Naruto reaffirmed his vow to be Hokage. So he could ensure that no more children would die within these walls, literally or metaphorically.

* * *

The Uchiha eye technique sharingan had been synonymous with terror since the clan, minus three, attacked on Naruto's ninth birthday. It had happened in the middle of the festival honoring the Yondaime's sacrifice and celebrating the downfall of the Kyuubi. During their first strike, they took hostage eleven children not old enough to be out of academy during peacetime, and killed twenty-two civilians and nine off-duty ninja. They sent a message to the Hokage four days later, demanding he turn control of the village over to them by sundown if he wanted the children returned alive.

Sandaime refused.

The children were returned in pieces to the academy, most thrown through the window into the classes taking place. Naruto, who had at that point been considering making a break for it through that very window, stared dazedly at the severed hand that landed on his desk as his fellow students screamed and bolted for the door, and knew that the time for classes was over.

* * *

Of the three pardoned Uchihas, one was the head of the clan's wife. She was pardoned primarily because she had been declared insane and permanently entered into the hospital four months before Naruto's ninth birthday.

Naruto hadn't been around when she'd been carted away, but he spent a lot of time in the market place and had heard the rumors. Uchiha Mikoto had attacked her husband at a clan meeting and attempted to gouge his eyes out with her fingers. At the time, she apparently had been screaming 'My children! My children! How dare you?'

By the time the rest of her clan, with the exception of two, were declared traitors and publicly executed, she had been catatonic for over three years. Naruto saw her once, when he was sent to guard the mental health ward of the hospital during a raid. In the six hours Naruto had stood firm in front of the ward, she had not once looked away from her bloodshot, too-dilated eyes reflected in the mirror on the wall.

That day, four guards and thirty-two patients were killed, including four pregnant women and three infants. The mental health ward wasn't touched.

* * *

The two remaining Uchiha not sentenced and executed for their crimes against Konoha were Uchiha Itachi and his younger brother Sasuke. For years, Naruto knew only as much as the rest of Konoha did: that Itachi had caught wind of his clan's impending betrayal, and had taken the one family member he actually cared about and left before the fighting started. He was, theoretically, an S-Class missing nin, and his brother a kidnapping case, but considering that neither came anywhere near the village until Naruto was fifteen, and then with amnesty, they were mostly left alone.

Naruto would learn what really happened straight from the horse's mouth at fifteen. That Itachi had been acting as a double-agent for Konoha. That he had opposed the escalation of violence, but had been powerless to stop it. That he had killed his best friend on the order of his father, and then chosen blindness over killing his younger brother and removing his eyes. That Konoha's council had ordered him to attack and kill all of the Uchiha in the district, knowing that alone he would only get to approximately a third before getting killed himself, in the hopes that this would send a message.

That Itachi had considered betraying his family for his village, then considered betraying his village for his family, then chosen option C. He went home, told his parents he'd been given a mission, packed his bags, packed Sasuke's bags, then snuck up behind his little brother in an alley and knocked him out. He left immediately afterwards, Sasuke slung over his shoulder, his heart in his throat and tears he refused to shed in his eyes.

Later, Sasuke screamed and cried enough for the both of them, but he eventually bowed to his brother's wishes. After all, Sasuke's curse always was being willing to follow Itachi blindly into hell. Or, in certain cases, perhaps out of it.