Just a long oneshot about Orochimaru and the Third Hokage. Because I find Orochimaru to be a simply fascinating character, and I wanted to capture his descent into the manipulative, evil little bastard we all know. So enjoy, and please review when you're finished.
WARNINGS:...None, really, but there is the implication of a sexual relationship between Orochimaru and Anko, if you squint.
"He's right in there, Sarutobi-sama. But please be careful. The poor thing's been scared half to death."
Sarutobi Hiruzen nodded, and opened the door to the hospital room. That was when he first laid eyes on the boy.
He was small, even for a three-year-old. He sat on the bed with his knees drawn up to his chest, long black hair obscuring his face. Blood-soaked bandages covered snow-white skin, red and white contrasting with each other.
"Hey thee," Hiruzen said, keeping his voice low and moving slowly. "My name is Sarutobi Hiruzen. Are you Orochimaru?"
The child nodded.
Hiruzen sat down in the chair beside the bed.
"So…you watched your parents get killed, huh? That must have been-"
Orochimaru looked up. Hiruzen stopped cold. His breath caught in his throat.
Those eyes. God, those eyes.
They were a bright, pure gold color, staring straight at him, seeming to bore a hole right through him. Beautiful did not seem to be a good enough word to describe them.
It was in that moment that Hiruzen learned the true meaning of the word breathtaking.
But…there was something about them. The expression they held was not one of innocence. These eyes did not look like they belonged to a child, seeming to hold depths of some untold wisdom. There was something else, though. Hiruzen couldn't place what it was, but it struck him as profoundly unnatural.
"Terrible?" Orochimaru asked, directing his gaze toward the ceiling. "Yes, yes it was."
He was too articulate for a three-year-old. Too calm.
"They killed my father first. They tried to slice a thousand pieces of skin off him before he died. I don't know how far they got."
He was shaking now, gripping the blanket on either side of him.
"They raped my mother. She screamed real loud when they did that. It must've hurt. But then they killed her, and the screaming went away."
He wiped away the gathering tears with his fist.
"They tried to find me, but I'd hidden in my mother's closet. When they left the bedroom, I got out through the window. They broke the glass to get in, and I got cut. I fell into the rose bushes outside. I ran for a really long time, until I fell down outside the ANBU headquarters."
His eyes were narrowed.
"I couldn't stop them. I couldn't stop them from doing that. I hate them so much! I hate them! I hate them! I hate them!"
He was shouting.
"I hate me. Why couldn't I save my mother and father? Am I really that weak?"
Hiruzen didn't know what to say. The look of anger and self-loathing on that little face chilled his heart.
What did you do?
What could you say?
What could you say to a child like this, who hated himself so thoroughly?
What was there to say?
"…It wasn't your fault," Hiruzen told him, patting him on the back. "Don't worry. I'm going to look after you now."
The eyes softened. They could almost pass for a child's eyes now.
"I'd like that," he said, in a quiet voice. "Thank you, Sarutobi-san."
"What's the snake weirdo doing here?"
"Get lost, freak!"
"I just wanted to play with you guys."
"Get outta here!"
Orochimaru refuses, and comes home bruised and dirty. His eyes show nothing but hurt.
"I never did anything to them, so why do they hate me so much?"
His voice was shaky, but he didn't cry.
That unnatural look was still in his eyes, burning alongside the hurt. It seemed to have only gotten stronger.
Sarutobi was awoken in the middle of the night by a strangled cry.
He ran down the hall and threw open Orochimaru's bedroom door.
He was crying and thrashing about, caught in the throes of a nightmare. Tears streamed down his face as he tossed around, pleading with nonexistent attackers.
"Mother! Father! Please, no! Don't…don't kill them! Please, don't kill them!"
Hiruzen ran to the bed and shook him.
"Wake up! Orochimaru, wake up.
Orochimaru jolted awake, bolting upright, eyes alight with wild, mindless fear.
"No! No! No! No! No!" he shouted, still thrashing around. Still reliving that night.
"Orochimaru! Orochimaru, it's okay! It's okay, it was just a nightmare!"
Hiruzen's wife came into the room, also awoken by the shouting.
"Orochimaru, honey, it's alright. You're okay. We're right here," she assured him, rubbing his back soothingly. "We'll always be right here."
Orochimaru's cries died away into nothing. He continued to sob, holding onto Hiruzen for dear life.
Hiruzen took Orochimaru's tiny hand in his own. The child squeezed it tight, whimpering in fear.
"They're not gonna get me too, are they?" he asked.
Hiruzen held him in his strong arms, rocking him back and forth gently.
"They're never going to get you, Orochimaru," he promised. "I won't ever let them."
"It's a symbol of good luck and reincarnation. It probably means that your parents have been reincarnated somewhere, so they can see you when you're all grown up."
That strange look in Orochimaru's eyes grew stronger, even as he smiled gently.
"Good luck and reincarnation," he whispered, fingering the fragile white snakeskin as though it was the most precious thing in the world.
"Sarutobi-sensei, do you really believe that?"
Hiruzen ignored the gnawing feeling in his stomach and grinned, kneeling down to Orochimaru's height and ruffling his hair.
"I know that."
"If that's the case, then one of us will definitely be tied to the log."
"How sharp you are, Orochimaru," Hiruzen chuckled. "You're right. Only two of you will get this bell."
Jiraiya shot Orochimaru an angry, jealous glance. The selfsame glance that every boy in Konoha gave him. Orochimaru had learned how to pretend not to notice. But, when Hiruzen looked away, he smirked and stuck his tongue out at Jiraiya, his eyes alight with mischief.
They always grow up so fast, don't they?
It almost made him sad, to think of how Orochimaru had gone from a frightened little child, to a gorgeous teenager with all the young women in Konoha lusting after him. How he had gone from bickering with Jiraiya to being his closest friend. How he had seemingly not noticed the female gender before, but now nursed a soft spot for Tsunade.
Hiruzen remembered his surprise when Orochimaru returned one day from training and announced: "Sarutobi-sensei, I think I've fallen in love with Tsunade-hime."
He'd really tried not to laugh, but that was an impossible feat. The irritation that arose in Orochimaru's eyes only made him laugh harder.
"Hokage-sama, don't you think it's just a little bit strange?"
Hiruzen watched out his window as Orochimaru passed by on the streets, Mitarashi Anko clinging to his arm and chattering away. Orochimaru had one of those doting smiles on his face as he listened to her pointless ramblings, a strange sort of affection in his eyes.
"Look up at the clouds, Orochimaru-sensei! They make all sorts of funny shapes if you look at them just right! See, Orochimaru-sensei? That one looks like a flower. And that one looks like a snake! Do you see that, Orochimaru-sensei?"
"Yes, yes, Anko. I see it," Orochimaru chuckled, running his fingers through her hair lovingly.
"They spend nearly every second of the day together. It's unnatural."
"Anko was very lonely before Orochimaru decided to become her sensei. She's probably starving for some affection," he said, determined to defend his prized pupil.
"I know that, but it just doesn't seem right that she should be with him all the time."
When Hiruzen decides to talk to Orochimaru about it, Orochimaru simply laughs.
"She's the one who decided to latch onto me incessantly, Sarutobi-sensei. I really don't mind it. After all, why would I deny my precious little girl something she wants so badly?"
There was something wrong in the way he said that, eyes alight with mischief.
"What do you mean by that?" Hiruzen asked.
"Not much," Orochimaru said, smirking. "She only really had one request. it was nothing."
That unnatural look was stronger than ever. Something sinister lurking behind those pools of liquid gold.
Why had it come to this?
Why hadn't he noticed it before?
…No. He had noticed it. He had noticed it for a long, long time. He just tried to ignore it, not doing anything about it until it was too late.
Too late to stop Orochimaru.
Too late to help him.
Hiruzen feels like a failure as a sensei. As a father. That sweet, helpful, respectful little boy he had raised…had he always been this evil? Had he been nursing that potential since his parent's deaths? Had he ever been truly innocent at all?
Those eyes, those breathtaking golden eyes, held nothing but contempt now. That look, that unnatural, chilling look they had always held, had overtaken the kindness and gentleness they used to hold. And now, Hiruzen finally knew what that look was.
Hate. He hated Hiruzen. Hated Jiraiya. Hated Tsunade. Hated Konoha. Everything. Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate.
He had hated everything for a very long time.
His old wounds had never fully healed. They had festered, untreated, for too long. They corrupted everything inside of him, until he was rotten to the core.
All the killing. All the lying. All the fighting and destruction. They had infected Orochimaru's thoughts until there was nothing left for him. And, despite it all, Hiruzen blames himself, at least in part, for Orochimaru's descent into darkness.
That's why, when Orochimaru runs, he doesn't try to stop him. That's why, despite everything Orochimaru had done, all the experiments, all the horrors; he can't bring himself to kill him.
Because he trusted Orochimaru. He shouldn't have trusted him. Now, who knew how many were dead? How many were suffering?
What about poor Anko? The little girl who had admired, maybe even loved Orochimaru. What had he done to her? What would happen to her now?
He trusted Orochimaru. Loved him. Raised him.
No. Hiruzen should never have trusted him.
He should never have trusted that look in his eyes...