My Unconventional Mask

Summary: Living day by day as a pretender, Uzumaki Naruto was known as the scorn of Konoha; cast aside by society. Their actions eventually led to the creation of a mask but what happens when that mask starts to crack? [Angst x Romance]

Author's Personal Statement: This will be a Hanabi x Naruto fiction. No, they are not children, they are young adults, ages 21 and 26 respectfully. I do not, in any shape or form, own Naruto the series or the characters. I own this story idea though.

Thanks to Wilson for being my outstanding beta. Kudos bro!

There's an author's note at the bottom, please take a look at that when you're done.

Naruto's POV

Have you ever wondered… why people found the idea of masks so appealing? Granted that a mask has several uses, it is nothing more than an empty cage to keep yourself in and others out.

You don't have to take my word for it; I'm only telling you what I think… not that it matters anyway…

My opinion never really mattered. Everything that came out of my mouth, every word, every sentence, was treated as background noise; like the sounds of a running brook or winds rustling along the trees. It just didn't matter.

I was just another soldier, someone with a name for convenience and with the duty of laying down my life at any given moment.

Uzumaki Naruto…

That's the name I grew up with, the name that I had grown accustomed to and the name that made people spit whenever it came up.

That's right… I am Uzumaki Naruto, a Konoha ninja with a Chunnin Rank. I have been denied my Jounin promotion continuously for the last three years. It was only a miracle that I made Chunnin, seeing as how they couldn't send genins to the front line.

They deemed my skills worthy enough to be Chunnin but unworthy for Jounin. I knew deep down inside, I had the skills to be in ANBU but I never let my anger get the best of me. I wouldn't let it slip past my mask…

This was the very same mask that I wore for twenty-six long years. On the outside, everyone saw a bumbling idiot, an incompetent fool and I was more than willing to play the part. I considered it my punishment for what happened 5 years ago…

Everywhere I went, I always kept it on; never once taking it off. I couldn't. This was the only path opened to me, the path of a Jinchuuriki.

Once… a long time ago… it was considered an S-Rank secret. Speaking it would mean absolute death but now, it was no longer a secret. The council couldn't keep it under wraps anymore and by morning, the entire population knew.

That was why adults would sneer and spit at my feet whenever they saw me.

It was also why children threw projectiles at me; rocks, tomatoes, cabbages and anything their parents could give them or whatever they could get their hands on.

I didn't have to read their minds to know what they were thinking, the look on their face said it all.

Filthy Jinchuuriki.

Bastard demon.

I could hear them… all the curses and insults whenever they mumbled it under their breath.

It was the curse that Kyuubi marked me with. It began as a gift, the demon explaining that with enhanced hearing, I would be able to hear the enemy from miles away but it came with a very steep price.

At that time, I admit, I was desperate. Akatsuki began its move, already capturing all of the Jinchuuriki but one. Me.

Their goal was to arrive in Konoha and tear the village apart looking for me but I wasn't there. Even though they found my whereabouts, they still tore the village apart.

Even after I rushed back and defeated Pein, I was still blamed for the mayhem and destruction. Sentenced to three weeks of outpost duty near the borders and my Jounin promotion suspended indefinitely.

No matter how harsh their punishments were, I took it; with the same mask on my face.

I never took it off, not even when I watched my team get caught in an ambush, when they died in my hands because I know, I was going to be blamed for it.

Years after the defeat of Pein, the members of Akatsuki went their separate ways, their numbers dwindling down.

It was decided that after the Pein catrostophe, I was to be labeled as a danger hazard, a demon waiting to break out and wreck havoc and so, I was to be kept under watch at all time.

Everywhere I looked, I could sense ANBU everywhere, their eyes trained on my every movement. They thought I wouldn't be able to sense them but I knew better. I just ignored them, staying in my apartment located in the slums of Konoha.

It was the best I could do, after being evicted from my old apartment. No landlord would rent me an apartment, no matter how high or ridiculous they made their rent. It was only after Kakashi stepped in that one landlord eventually gave me a place. No one dared to oppose the Hokage…

There was only one word to describe my apartment, horrible. Located in the poorest section in Konoha and being right at the village walls, it was always overlooked by everyone. I was alone here, my neighbors avoiding me like the plague.

I didn't mind the solitude; no one wanted to talk to me voluntarily anyway. I convinced myself that it was for the best.

As my cold blue eyes stared at the ground, the building's shadow appeared; an indication that the sun was rising and morning was here once again. I sighed and pushed myself off my mattress, stretching my arms before going to freshen up.

That's right; I didn't own a bed, only a mattress with a messed up pillow and a blanket that didn't even cover my body.

But that wasn't the bad part. I could sleep on the floor or in a tree with no problem. The problem was the utilities because since this place was located at the edge of the slums, there was no plumbing or electricity here. I had to leave my apartment and go off into the jungle, to my regular spot along the river to freshen up and bathe.

Somewhere along the way, the ANBU would disappear, because they know as well as I do, I wouldn't leave the village.

Feeling the icy water splashed against my skin made me shiver slightly. I took the moment to enjoy the sensation, the frosty liquid dripping down my face.

The cold and I were similar in many ways. Both of us were one of a kind. There was only one cold and there was only one Uzumaki Naruto. With warmth, there was warm and hot, each holding a different meaning but with cold, you were either cold or you weren't. It was as simple as that.

I heard my stomach grumbling, telling me that it was time for breakfast or lunch. I didn't remember what time it was, after spending so much time out here in the jungle. All I knew was that I was hungry and it was time to eat.

Being stuck as a Chunnin meant living with the shitty pay and the amount of missions that a Chunnin was allowed to take.

To me, food was a luxury. If I could afford it, then I would eat. If I can't, then it's too bad. I learned that lesson a long time ago.

As I leaped out of the Shi no Mon, AKA the Forest of Death, I felt the sun shining on my face, the warmth that I missed. Taking a deep breathe, I found myself enchanted with an aroma that I also missed.

The smell of freshly made ramen almost made me drool. Keyword, almost. Giving myself enough distance between the Ramen stall and my landing, I figured that a five minute walk would be enough to build my appetite.

As I walked closer, I saw that the old man actually had customers, which meant that it was lunchtime. I felt myself feeling uneasy as I walked into the stall, feeling their stares on me but it didn't matter. I turned to them and smiled, greeting them before taking a seat far in the corner.

There were two men sitting there, obviously ninjas, turned and glared at me, like I was ruining their appetite. I didn't blame them, it happened every time I walked in here. People would get up, complain about how everything went to hell and in the end, Teuchi would end up apologizing and the customers would walk out without paying, gaining a free meal on my expense.

It disgusted me how people can behave like this but all I could do was apologize and smile. If I did anything else, it would make matters worse for the old man.

"Hn, I don't feel like eating anymore."

And so it begins. The bigger of the two stood up. Akego, I believe his name was, is a well respected Jounin in the community and he usually got his way.

"Is there a problem with the food sir?" Teuchi asked, already knowing the answer. I think he only did it as an attempt to calm his customers down.

"Yeah, the meal tastes like crap. I can't eat this!"

Seeing the hurt look on the old man's face, I turned around and started walking out, not once looking back. I couldn't stay here. I was the reason why the old man was losing money. I was always the problem here…

I can hear the old man yelling my name, telling me not to leave but I just waved my hand, dismissing his call. He continued yelling but I continued walking, doing everything in my will to not give into his pleads. I casually threw him a fake smile and disappeared with a shunshin. I was foolish to think that today would be the first time in a while that I can have ramen but I was obviously mistaken. It looks like I wouldn't be having lunch today either.

Teuchi was the only restaurant owner that actually considered me a normal human being, unlike the rest of the population. Even when I was little, before I knew about the Kyuubi, the old man welcomed me with open arms. He didn't give a damn about what people thought. That kind smile never left his aging face as I grew up. Throughout my adolescent years to my adult years, Teuchi always stuck by my side but I come to realize that he too, also had a mask.

Being someone who went through life with a mask, I could tell that his business was slowly falling apart. Many times, he would claim that he didn't need customers like them but I knew the truth. He did.

The old man wasn't making enough now to get by and it was my fault. No one wanted to eat at the same place that served a demon. It was considered taboo. My resolve only grew stronger, and I was determined to leave the man alone so he can gather some decent business. On some occasions, I found myself standing on an empty rooftop, staring off into the streets. I could see potential customers cautiously peeking in, making sure the coast was clear. If the demon wasn't there, they would enter and have a good time but if I was there, the place was emptier than water in a desert.

Once I realized what the problem was, it was clear to me that I had to stay away; relying on myself yet once again to survive.

Making my way across rooftops, I ignored my hunger pains and headed for the Hokage Tower, hoping to get a decent mission to make my living arrangements easier for the next month.

For the past few years, my missions were frequently solo missions. I wasn't given team missions anymore, which made Kakashi comment about how childish they were being.

Having my former sensei turned Hokage was something I never expected. He was Hatake Kakashi, the Copy Ninja, the laziest ninja in Konoha. While his strength was on par with the legendarily Sannins, his attitude never changed. From one man that wore a mask to another, he was able to recognize my mask instantly.

I had one throughout my childhood, always putting on the mask of a fool. He kept telling me to drop the act and be myself but he never saw reality through my eyes. If he did, he wouldn't be proposing such a ludicrous comment. As I progressed through life, he saw that I was hiding deeper and deeper into my mask and he thought that one day, I was going to be buried under it.

In an attempt to pull me back, he set up weekly gatherings for the former rookies. At first, it was… tolerable. They were somewhat eager to see me but this was before they realized what I am. I will admit, I almost wanted to come out of my mask but soon after that event, everyone disappeared on me.

It was like those last few months never really existed and then… life just continued on like normal.

Kakashi continued to push for the weekly gatherings but it wasn't the same anymore. The rookies showed up but their expressions were guarded and I knew why. It was because the news of the events was leaked into the public and they knew.

Everyone knew what happened that day, and the looks in their eyes said volumes. I stopped showing up and no one ever bothered to contact me, to find me. Even the ANBU were hesitant to watch me.

I knocked on the mahogany door, ignoring the cold glances the secretary was giving me. I could hear her swearing under her breath, cursing about my presence.

"Come in." Kakashi's lazy voice echoed through the door. I easily pushed it open and saw Kakashi frowning under his mask.

"I'm here for my weekly mission."

Kakashi didn't look up, which was weird. He always greeted me with a genuine smile but today, his mood was different and my guess was that piece of paper that he had on his desk.

"Kakashi?" I spoke up again, raising my voice slightly. His eyes rose up, looking at me and back at the paper before letting out a small sigh.

"Long time no see Naruto."

"Is something the matter?" I asked. "Did someone fall into a… ditch again?" My attempt of humor was rather hesitant because I wasn't sure if this was the appropriate time for jokes. With no actual friends, I was often alone with my thoughts and without someone to converse with; I wasn't comfortable in situations like this.

But luckily, my poor attempt brought some amusement into Kakashi. I heard a small chuckle from him as he pushed the folder over. "Read it and tell me what you think."

He didn't have to ask me, I was going to accept it either way. My financial situation wasn't great but it wasn't poor either. With the amount of money I have now, I would lucky enough to make it to the next month.

My eyes quickly glanced over the report, picking up words such as 'Rice', 'Trapped', 'Enemies' and 'Help'. "I'll take it." I answered without a second thought.

Kakashi sighed as he leaned back into his chair, "You didn't read it."

Those words came out more as a statement instead of a question, which surprised me. "Of course I read it." I answered back, not willing to let my former sensei get the better of me; I just smiled and shook my head. "I read enough Kakashi. What else is there for me to know?"

"Have I taught you nothing Naruto? Always look underneath the underneath!" Kakashi replied with slight anger in his tone. "This is a damn suicide mission. Those fools are sending you out on a suicide mission. They want you dead!"

So it finally came to this. I had my suspicions that my last few missions were somewhat suicidal and if anyone else but me took them, they would have surely been dead. If Kakashi thought I was going to be shocked, he was mistaken. I merely smiled through my mask, which caused the man to frown even more.

"It's not a joke Naruto. I don't want you to take this. I can get you other missions; I can do something else for you…"

Kakashi was one of the few people that didn't resent me for who I am or what I did. He understood my pain and that was something I was grateful for but I couldn't accept his pity. I swore to myself a long time ago that I would never accept pity.

"A true ninja would never turn down a mission, especially if it benefits the village as a whole." I replied, quoting the words of a wise man.

Kakashi's eye only narrowed when he recognized the sentence. "The third was naïve; he had no clue what he was saying. If he was alive to see you now, he would beat you into the ground senseless."

I grabbed the piece of paper and signed my name, showing the Hokage my signature as proof that I accepted the mission. "It doesn't matter Kakashi, I have a team to save."

"… just be careful will you?" Defeat in his voice, Kakashi pulled the piece of paper back and added his signature to the paper as well. "It doesn't have to be like this Naruto…"

"But it can't be helped…" I replied before leaving the office. For the first time, I didn't see a great man sitting behind the desk, I saw a tired and exhausted man. I quietly shut the door and disappeared in a shunshin, making my way back to my poor apartment.

It didn't take me long, I was somewhat eager to leave the village. Being in here, I was only trapping myself but out there, I was finally free from the hatred, the glares and cold shoulders, even if it was just for a limited time. Having grown up alone, I had never once taken a blessing in disguise for granted.

My apartment wasn't something that I could call home. Hell, I wasn't even there all the time. I spent most of my nights at the training grounds, sleeping against a tree whenever I exhausted myself training.

Training was the only thing that distracted me. Jiraiya pointed out a valuable fact to me. He said that no matter how shitty life is, how defeated and miserable I get, the sweat I get from training was the one thing that would never betray me.

People might betray you but your fists would not.

To this day, I lived by his philosophy. He was more than a mentor to me, he was a fatherly figure. In some ways, he was like the dad that I never had. He looked after me like his own son but when he passed away, I felt my world shatter.

Entering through the door, I walked past my empty kitchen, grabbing the only few things that I own. There was really nothing in this apartment. It was plain and depressing. I didn't feel the need to decorate because no matter what I did, an apartment in the slums was an apartment in the slums. The mood couldn't be fixed.

I took out a set of kunais, the only things that were worth money in this apartment but even if someone came and stole these kunais, they wouldn't get much out of it. These kunais were in poor condition, made out of cheap metals. I couldn't afford the normal quality that most ninjas had. I purchased this set on one of my travels and polished them myself. The weapon store here in Konoha wouldn't do business with me, which was troublesome at times but I made peace with it.

During my missions, I would pilfer the weapons of my enemies, adding them to my own arsenal. Doing this was frowned upon but I didn't mind, I needed the weapons since TenTen made it clear to me that as long as I was still breathing, I was never allowed to step foot inside her store.

Of course, she said it in a harsher tone but it didn't matter. If that was her wish, then I will completely abide by it.

Putting the kunais into my weapon holster and tightening the bandages around my ribs, my eyes wandered over to the picture frame sitting next to an unopened letter from Gaara. It was a picture that meant the world to me. On it was people that I considered part of my family. It was a picture of me and the two sannins, Jiraiya and Tsunade.

I sighed as I picked up the picture frame, wiping off the dust. I couldn't help but feel a pang of loneliness in my chest as I stared into it. I didn't have any other pictures in this place; this was the only one so I considered it special. I wasn't like other people that had a billion pictures of their friends and family, I only had one but it was more than enough.

I remember Tsunade pulling a reluctant Jiraiya as we posed for this family portrait. The Toad Sannin was rather wary of the idea but after some threats, the man eventually agreed. No matter how much those two argued, I couldn't help but smile at the relationship they had. It was clear to me that there was something more than friends behind it but I never questioned it. It wasn't my place.

I put the frame back down and decided to visit Tsunade, who resided in the village after much persuasion from Kakashi. Originally, Tsunade was to take up the mantel of the fifth but she wouldn't have it. She opted to be the head of the hospital which left Kakashi the only other choice. I chuckled at the memory; the Cyclops Ninja threw a fit, cursing at the Slug Sannin for running away from her destiny. She merely giggled and wished him the best of luck. Even Jiraiya pitied the new Hokage, promising him a brand new Icha Icha Paradise soon.

I took one last around and walked out the door, locking it incase someone decides to break in. With a quick shunshin, I made my way over to Tsunade's mansion, which was located behind the Hokage Monument. Apparently, she inherited it from her grandfather when she returned to the village.

I silently landed on the roof and I saw her enjoying a cup of tea while reading over some medical files. I stealthily jumped down but before I could sneak up on her, she let out a chuckle. "I know you're there Naruto. You could never sneak up on me."

"I could if I really wanted to…" I childishly replied, sticking out my tongue.

It's been a month since I last saw her and she was doing well, from what I seen. She was always bugging me to learn a medical jutsu, claiming that it could save my life one day but I always declined, telling her that with my rapid regeneration, I could recover from almost anything.

That was the excuse that I always gave her but I suspect that she knew better. The real reason why I refused to learn a medical jutsu was because I didn't deserve to. I have caused so much pain and suffering that it was better off if I had died and I think she knew it too.

"Why didn't you decline the mission Naruto?"

Crap, she found out. I curse the damn Cyclops, always sticking his noise in my business. I know that he meant well but it just wasn't cool. He ratted me out to my mom…

"I'm the only one who can save them Tsunade… I know it, you know it and he knows it as well…"

Tsunade sighed, knowing that the argument was lost. "You know the anniversary is coming up right?" She asked, changing the subject.

"Yeah…" How can I forget? I burned the day into my memories. "You think that pervert is doing well up there?"

She snorted, "I bet he's overwhelmed with joy, peeping at women to his heart's content."

Silence fell between us, both of us not knowing how to continue on. The subject of Jiraiya's death was still a sore spot for me and I took it pretty hard when I found out that Pein killed him in battle.

"It's in three weeks… Will you please come with me this year to his grave? I know it would make him happy to see us go together…"

I shook my head, "No, I'll go myself. I'm sure that you'll want some time alone with him and I don't want to intrude on it."

The real story wasn't that I didn't want to go with her. It was because I'm prohibited to go visit the heroes' cemetery, a place where it was reserved for the heroes. They wouldn't allow a demon to tarnish the ground of heroes.

Every year on April the fourteenth, I would stay in my apartment or training field, reminiscing about the good times that I had with Jiraiya and at night, I would sneak into the cemetery and pay my respects to the man I considered my father.

"You don't have to go visit him alone Naruto… You have to stop hiding behind that mask of yours and let people in."

My eyes widened as her words took me by surprise but I quickly pushed it back behind my mask.

"You're not the only one who misses him Naruto, I usually come back at night to give him some sake and that's when I see you sitting there, lost in your thoughts. I could see the sadness on your face and I worry about you…" Tsunade explained.

I sighed, nodding my head. I was partially relieved that she only saw me sitting there. If she had gotten a closer look, she would have noticed that on that day, my mask was completely off. I would never tell anyone but during that time, I was able to truly be myself.

"I'll think about it…" I answered before walking away. "I'll visit again when I return…"

Tsunade nodded, "Be careful Naruto… I don't want to lose you too…"

I just smiled, knowing that she worried about me and that was good enough for me. "I'll see you on that day baachan…"

Author's Note: So if you're reading this, you must have finished reading the story, or just skipped it entire to read this one note. Either way, I will say one thing before everyone bombards me with the same idea.

I know I didn't explain much in this first chapter. That's because its the FIRST chapter. I don't want to spill everything here and then have nothing for the later chapters.

In the next chapter, you will get a more general idea of where I'm taking this story. If you like it, leave me a review! More Reviews = More Love.