Ok, before we get started, I want it to be noted that this IS NOT AND NEVER WILL BE A SASUNARU. If you know me at all, you will realise that I don't like love, reading about it or actually writing it. Trust me, it ain't turning up here. They're just really close friends.
NOT a SasuNaru. Never will be, either. Read without fear.
No 'official' pairings will be included in this story, except for vague references to one-sided crushes. So if you're looking for romance, you'll wanna leave pretty sharpish.
Warnings: Violence, swearing (some censored, some I forgot to censor), some angst, mentions of torture but nothing excessively graphic in the far future, more violence, random pieces of Japanese (that will be translated at the bottom of each chapter), fangirls, messing with canon and staying true to canon as suits Fall's whim. Some important Japanese information may be explained at the end of chapters. If you want to know something in particular, ask.
Alternate Warnings: Kakashi bashers, Sasuke bashers and Sakura bashers will want to go elsewhere. Actually, any kind of bashers will want to go elsewhere.
EDIT: 29-4-10, approximately two in the morning. Have just discovered fanfiction dot net has yet again stuffed around with the formatting of the goddamn site and removed my goddamn page breaks. Please bear with me while I track down and brutally murder those responsible, and upload repaired chapters.
Who I Am
I couldn't help chuckling under my breath at Sasuke's predicament. I had heard the shrieking of his fangirls from outside the Academy, and the din was only worse on the inside of the classroom. As far as I could tell, his fangirls had been fighting over who got to sit next to him, and then the Uchiha heir, apparently too distracted to notice the shouting, made the mistake of walking in. Now he was being slowly suffocated from an acute lack of personal space, and I was sitting on my bench mentally laughing at him.
The noise level hadn't dropped in the slightest by the time someone slumped on the desk beside me and growled, "Dobe."
"Teme," I returned with a good-natured grin. "Escaped the rabid fangirls for another day, eh?"
Sasuke merely grunted in reply, resting his head on the desk. The fangirls were still bickering amongst themselves, yet to notice that their prize had escaped and was now sitting at the window seat with the dead last between him and his rabid fanclub.
Bastard, using me as a shield.
Fortunately, Iruka-sensei came in just then, and the fanclub was distracted from either a renewed attack on Sasuke or a new attempt on mauling me as he yelled at them to 'find seats already, dammit!'
Once the classroom was in relative order and I could feel the force of about two dozen death glares aimed at the back of my head (ah, so they'd finally noticed), Iruka-sensei told us the results of yesterday's written exam, and those who had failed trooped out miserably.
In a way I guess it's not fair to kick out the non-bookish ninja straight away, but when they don't have a clue what the five main ninja villages are or what a henge is, then it's probably a good idea to get rid of them before they get themselves killed. I know for a fact some of them were purposely failed because the teachers know they can't handle ninja life yet.
But anyway, I had somehow scraped a pass, although Kami knows how, and I was very pleased. The rest of the class – and probably a good portion of the rest of the building – was alerted to that fact as I jumped onto my desk and hollered, "HELL YEAH! Konoha's about to meet its number one ninja!"
I would have shouted more if not for Sasuke grabbing a fistful of my shirt and yanking me backwards off the desk, sending me toppling. If I hadn't been ready for it I would have hit my head on the stair above me and probably gotten knocked out. Instead I leaped straight to my feet and shouted, "What the hell was that for, teme?!"
"Hn. You're giving me a migraine, dobe."
"TEME! Don't call me that!" If I'm dead last, then why am I still in the room while other people failed?
I heard Iruka groan quietly as Sasuke and I argued, me at the top of my lungs and Sasuke with quieter retorts, but for me, despite my apparent annoyance, this was fun. Irritating Sasuke was a bit of a hobby. And for Sasuke, I was less of a migraine than his fangirls.
So we argued, getting progressively louder by the second, until Iruka yelled, "Knock it off, you two!!"
We stopped shouting at each other and instead turned our smouldering glares on him, both mentally insisting 'he started it!' Iruka was apparently unimpressed and ignored us as he repeated the explanation of the physical exams he'd given us yesterday, before he got called away.
"You will be called outside in pairs to demonstrate your projectile throwing and then your taijutsu in a short spar. After that you will return to the classroom, quietly, and wait; when your name is called you will go into that room there and demonstrate your ninjutsu ability. Normally this would happen the same day as your written exam, but due to unusual circumstances it was postponed."
I grinned. The 'unusual circumstances' had been someone dousing the Hokage monument with a variety of paints, and then leading three-quarters of the village ninja on a wild goose chase all across Konoha and then some, before vanishing into thin air. They never caught the culprit (a sore spot of the seventeen ANBU who had been in pursuit), or even found out who did it, and the best part was that I was off the suspects list: I'd been in the classroom waiting for the exam to start the entire time. Perfect alibi that no fewer than forty five people could support. The chase had taken up the whole morning, and there hadn't been enough teachers left behind to supervise the exams. So, the written got pushed back to the afternoon, and without enough time for the phys tests, they got dragged back to today.
Ignoring the fidgeting of the kids around me, some frantically going over jutsu notes – what's the point of that, the theory won't help you now – I spent the next half hour seeing how often I could poke Sasuke with my foot before he shot me a glare strong enough to wither plants and poked me back, hard. Not long, apparently.
"Stop fighting and get out here, you two!"
Oh good, that meant it was our turn. I bounced to my feet with a grin, while Sasuke stood up calmly and just walked down the stairs, me following him noisily and bouncing several feet in the air with every step. I probably would have tripped and fallen down the stairs at some point if not for Sasuke grabbing my jacket – again – and dragging me down. "Come on, dobe, I want to get this over with."
"Teme!" I screeched. "If you wanna pass you're gonna have to fight for it!"
Mizuki, who was the tester for the phys exams, sighed and dragged us apart before we could kill each other. "Wait for the spar," he informed us sharply. "Uchiha, you first, three kunai at that target, now."
Sasuke threw the kunai instantly, and I heard the short thunk as each one hit the target. "Nice. Three bullseyes," Mizuki commented. "You, same target, three kunai, go."
I breathed a faint sigh of relief and threw my weapons, hearing a clash as they hit Sasuke's, and frowned. That teme's kunai had better not have thrown my shots off…
But no, it seemed I was fine, Sasuke's voice faintly awed as he muttered, "Two dead centre and one damn close. Not bad for a dobe."
I shook my fist at him: a promise for the taijutsu fight.
Shuriken went almost exactly the same, and we both passed – it would be impossible not to, with our scores. Now, we faced off on the grassy field, Mizuki standing between us and getting ready to get the hell out of the way. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, trying to relax. Freaking out or getting furious would not help me here. I needed to stay calm.
"Remember, taijutsu only, you two," he told us. "Sasuke, that means no Katon jutsu. And no explosive tags. No weapons for either of you. Ready? Begin!"
My eyes snapped open and I sprang sideways, Sasuke's first punch missing me, and there was a crunching of shredding grass as he twisted on one foot to snap the other out at me in a powerful kick that I swept aside with both arms, dodging a follow-up punch and throwing my elbow at Sasuke's chest.
It missed, of course.
I landed on my forearms and immediately went into a roll. Once my back was underneath me, I pushed off, clipping Sasuke's chin with my feet as I jumped back upright, but he wasn't dazed, easily jumping the foot-sweep I attempted as I spun around to face him.
I heard the rustle of cloth, the sound that meant he was throwing a punch, and ducked it quickly, whipping around again, mentally cursing (damn the little bastard, he is fast!) and springing away from the uppercut that grazed my cheek.
It was an instantaneous act-react-act-again fight, neither of us losing or gaining any ground as we exchanged blows that were either blocked or dodged, both unable to get in a solid hit as we ducked and weaved between each other's punches and kicks, moving as fast as we could.
Finally Sasuke surprised me with a kick disguised as a punch that I blocked and twisted my other arm, expecting to get a knee to the stomach, and instead felt the solid impact of his foot against my chest. It was a strong kick, too, all the force of his leg behind it, and I hit the ground with a heavy thud, slamming the back of my head against the dirt. For about half a second I stared blankly straight up at the sky as I tried to force air back into my aching lungs, before remembering I was in the middle of a spar, and immediately rolled over backwards.
I got halfway through my roll before Sasuke landed on my legs, obviously having been aiming for my stomach, and found himself being flipped with my momentum, and he was thrown off easily as I flipped myself back upright and spun to face him, where he'd hit the ground with a thump and rolled away to get his breath back.
We were both panting, breath rushing in and out of our lungs as we tried to get oxygen into our systems, having just been winded. Sasuke sounded worse than me, straining for air, but then again, I'd had a precious few extra seconds. We were both waiting for the other to make a next move, the next wave of attacks stalling, neither of us wanted to leap straight in again.
Then we both moved in the same instant, rushing back into the fight.
I was grinning fiercely as I spun on the ball of my foot to get around Sasuke, and even though I couldn't see his face as I leaned into his back and jerked his feet out from under him with my other leg, I know he was smiling too, in his own way, 'cos that's how me and Sasuke work.
I heard Sasuke's back hit the ground, already midway through a roll, and I spun again, blocking his next punch and striking out with my own, swiping at his legs once more and tilting my head to the side to avoid a high kick. We had gone back to the complex dance that made up our spars, barely grazing each other with our attacks and dodging everything with a finesse that made it seem even less like a fight.
I heard him draw his fist back through the rush of adrenaline, and mirrored the movement perfectly. Our fists slammed together, and instantly we leapt apart, panting heavily. Then I smiled, and we both bowed to each other, before turning to the astonished teacher.
"Uh…" Mizuki stammered. "You're supposed to keep going until someone loses…"
We both shook our heads. "If we fight longer, we'll start using ninjutsu," Sasuke said quietly, and I grinned brightly, putting my arms behind my head.
The teacher was startled by our apparent lack of will to kill each other, when we were usually at one another's throats, but he managed to say, "Okay then… you both pass the taijutsu section… head back inside and just wait…" He stumbled off, probably for a cup or two of sake (having been watching small children trying to beat each other up for the past two hours), and Sasuke and me both went back inside.
Back in our usual seats, we endured Sasuke's fanclub fawning over him and fighting with each other in the background. Sasuke, I suspect, was merely trying to hide under his desk and sneak away, but I was just ignoring them. They just weren't worth the effort, and I was too busy being worried about my ninjutsu.
See, I can't do a bunshin. I know why, but I can't fix it, or get around it, and I've been getting help, but it still doesn't work. I can do kawarimi, and even henge with ease (though it took a lot of practise and Sasuke laughing at me), but bunshin is simply beyond me. It won't work.
"Uchiha Sasuke!" Iruka called, sticking his head out of the room. I blinked and looked up: me and Sasuke were the only ones left. Somehow his fanclub had all been through and I hadn't noticed them thinning out, although Sasuke had probably sighed with relief as every girl left.
It was a five-minute wait of pure torture. I was actually starting to shiver, my heart thundering in my chest and my breath coming in short pants. I was about twenty seconds from a full-blown panic attack when Iruka called my name.
I sprang to my feet instantly, feeling as if ants were crawling across my skin, and couldn't help brushing my arms violently as I bolted down the stairs, trying to get rid of the tickly feeling and slow my heart rate down at the same time before I opened the door.
I shut my eyes and took in a deep breath, hearing Iruka sigh faintly with relief 'last one' and the restless shifting of another teacher – Mizuki had probably come in after his sake. I took another breath before I opened my eyes, trying to calm down, and I heard Iruka say, "Okay then, could you please display a henge?"
I swallowed anxiously and managed to say without stammering or letting my voice crack in terror, "What of?"
"Just me will be fine."
I breathed in deeply and put my hands into the ram seal, focusing my chakra and pulling it around me, shaping it into the image I was supposed to, and held my breath even as I said cheerfully, "How's this?"
"Perfect," Iruka said happily, his pencil scribbling on paper, "now kawarimi."
I nodded and focused. This one was harder, but I knew exactly where he was standing, so if all went well, I could manage it. The handseals flew by on pure instinct.
I felt the chakra flush through my system, throwing up a burning tingle of feeling over me, then the sense of pressure and the sense of my heart skipping a beat as my body swapped positions.
I heard a yelp from Iruka, and leaned back in my newly gained chair, smirking. He cleared his throat, recovering from the shock of being used as a kawarimi target, and said, "Very good, Naruto. Just one more. Make three bunshin."
I swallowed shakily as I stood up. I could do this. I had to do this, no matter how much I sucked at bunshin. I had to pass.
Slowly, I brought my trembling hands together into the handseals, focusing the chakra through my fingertips carefully, focusing intently on the shapes, feeling the chakra flowing out of me and fighting to get it into the right position, trying as hard as I could to keep control.
I felt it flow and solidify, and I squeezed my eyes shut and dropped my hands slowly, not turning around to look, my heart pounding in terror as if it was trying to break out of my ribcage. Please… please let it have worked this time… please let me pass…
"Naruto…" I heard Iruka sigh, and my heart rate doubled – I hadn't thought it was possible. "You fail. I'm sorry."
I felt my heart stop and all the breath rushed out of my body. I'd failed. The jutsu hadn't worked.
"Come on, Iruka," Mizuki protested. "He at least made two bunshin this time."
I had? I didn't open my eyes, though, not bothering to try to see what horrible mistake I'd made this time.
"One looks dead, and the other looks like the Hokage monument did yesterday," Iruka said flatly, sounding disappointed. "I'm sorry, Naruto, but I can't pass you on that."
I slowly turned away, towards the second door of the room, where everyone else had already passed through, with their hitai-ates. They had passed, and I had failed. Again.
My footsteps were slow, my head turned to the ground as I walked slowly to my tree, the one with the swing hanging off it, listening to the other children babbling to their parents about their day and how they passed the exam and were genin now. I sank onto the swing, feeling weak and exhausted. I couldn't make a stupid bunshin, and I'd never pass the Academy exam. I could never be a ninja.
I heard sprinting footsteps and then Sasuke's voice calling, "Dobe, what are you doing over here – oh no." I heard the shock and sadness in his voice. "Oh, man, I'm sorry, I thought you'd –"
"Thought I'd finally managed to pass?" I interrupted dully, leaning against the rope of the swing. "Let's face it Sasuke, I'm never going to pass. I'll never be able to make a passable bunshin. I'll never be a ninja."
Sasuke was silent, obviously not knowing how to respond, before he sat down on the grass next to me, trying to offer comfort with his presence. Oddly, it helped, and I sighed faintly, turning my head to the sky, before asking quietly, "Sasuke?"
My voice was wistful. "What does the sunset look like?"
He took a deep breath. "The sun's just barely touching the horizon now – we got out a little late. It looks a lot bigger than usual, as if it's absorbing all the daylight as it falls. It's a deep yellow, starting to fade into orange, and there are small wisps of cloud stained red and orange across it. The sky around it is orange that deepens to red as it hits the trees at the bottom, and as it rises up it fades into the blue of twilight as it starts to deepen into dusk. The sky on the other side is turning purple and dark blue, everything fading away into the darkness as it falls. There are some clouds pretty high up, grey and white, and with the sunlight behind them it looks as if they've been edged in gold. Clouds with golden linings, instead of silver.
"The sun's halfway gone now. The sky's deepening in colour, and the sun is a darker orange; it almost hurts to look at it because it's so bright. The clouds are beginning to fade into the shadows as the light vanishes, and the sky near the sun is starting to grow fainter, blending into the blues of the surrounding air.
"There's a flock of birds in the distance, outlined by the sunlight, looking for a roosting tree for the night. You can probably hear them calling better than I can; I barely hear anything from that far off."
He was right: I could faintly hear their screeches, even at the distance they were.
"The sun's just falling below the horizon now, and the light's all fading away, leaving behind the greys and blues of dusk and nightfall as purple and black overtake the sky. The first stars are just starting to appear, pinpricks of silver in a blanket that darkens as you watch. The last of the light is dying, leaving nothing behind but darkness."
There was a short pause, before I said quietly, "Thanks, Sasuke."
"No problem, Naruto."
He sensed that I wanted to be on my own for a while now, and stood up to leave. He didn't say anything more: there was nothing more to be said.
I sighed, and stared up at a sky I couldn't see, wishing that things could be different, and knowing they never would be.
I, Uzumaki Naruto, am completely blind.
And Sasuke, aside from me, is the only one who knows.
Memo: I would like to request that you consider taking on a genin team this year. We are slightly short on jounin following the Cloud Incident and the long-term infiltrations still in progress, and your experience is required.
Attention: Sandaime Hokage
Memo: Not. A. Chance.
Japanese definitions, which I wish had been more common when I first entered this highly confusing fandom:
Konoha: If you don't know this one already… It's short for 'Konohagakure no Sato' which is literally 'Village Hidden in the Leaves'. The shorter versions, 'Konohagakure' and just 'Konoha' mean 'Hidden in the Leaves' and 'Leaf' respectively.
Teme: Is translated to 'bastard' or a similar rude name in the English version, but literally is a connotation of a noun referring to a hand-servant and is considered rude.
Dobe: Literally 'dead last', loosely translates to 'loser' in the English dubs.
Taijutsu: Hand to hand combat; basically means martial arts or similar.
Ninjutsu: This is the flash and bang stuff, usually referred to as 'jutsu'.
Kami: Literally, 'God'.
Order of Names: Japanese people write their family names first, then their given names. I am holding true to this tradition, using 'Uchiha Sasuke' instead of the 'Sasuke Uchiha' some of you may be used to. This particular concept may help to explain 'clan pride', as writing the family name first subconsciously indicates that one's clan is more important than the individual. Calling people by their last names is more common in this culture, for the reason that their clan defines them more than their own given name.
E-rank. Jutsu that allows the user to swap positions (or 'substitute') with another solid object that is roughly their size from somewhere else. The most common depicted is a section of log, but other material like rocks have been used and it is widely believed that you can swap positions with anything, as long as it is about the same size as the user. All ninja Academy level and up should know this one.
E-rank. A low level clone jutsu that creates illusionary copies of the user. The clones cannot interact with their environment, making them useless for practical work, and it makes them easy to pick out. All ninja Academy level and up should know this one, and all genin and up able to defend against it.
E-rank. Illusionary jutsu that lets the user take on the appearance of another person or object. All ninja Academy level and up should know this one.
A/N: I always thought it was a bit ridiculous how they only tested them on one of their three ninjutsu and nothing else. So this may be different to canon; I don't mind. Canon is a guideline which will be happily disposed of when I no longer need it.
I've seen a lot of 'Naruto has a disability' fics, y'know, blind, deaf, mute, but they always seem to… vanish. That or they're not realistic. Ever seen a first-person blind story where the character describes colour in all kinds of detail?
Yeah. I'm hoping to be a good deal more realistic than that.
And I swear if I get one review saying 'but Naruto's not blind', I will kill them. This is an AU for a REASON; if you can't deal with that, the back button's up there. If you are willing to accept the fact that Naruto IN THIS AU is blind, the review button is just there.
Twin1: Good sheep. Baaa.
Twin2: What the hell are you doing here? This is my story!
Twin1: I don't quite know. Review! Baa! Moo!