A. N. this is the story that was a gift for Noien-sama. The Ita/Naru SWAP is behind us, so currently I am working on the new chapter for SIGNS. In the meantime I'll be posting this fic for Ita/Naru fans. So here's a warning for everyone, Yaoi!
Summary: Uchiha clan adopts Naruto to have more political influence. The story describes events that follow.
Warnings: one of the characters in romantic relationship is underage; violence; small amount of politics;
The status of the Uchiha clan was not the same as it used to be.
Before, people remembered that Uchiha, along with Senju family, founded the Leaf village. Their clan was respected, loved and had influence. Civilians and shinobi were in awe of the power that was in their reach. Unbeatable, disciplined and trained since they were able to walk; it was no surprise that their name was known to every nation, be they friend or foe.
With time though, people turned in awe to other legends. Konoha's inhabitants had gotten used to seeing the clan members on the streets, and the Uchiha clan no longer had the power and influence they once had.
Their compound territory wasn't any more impressive than one that belonged to Hyuuga family and they were provided with it so they could be gathered in one area to be easily monitored. Since the Kyuubi's attack they were no longer trusted, as many believed they may have been involved.
All the political power they had now was one seat in military council of Konoha. The Daimyo was more impressed with the longevity of the Sandaime than the accomplishments of the active shinobi. And Sarutobi, the Sandaime, cared more about peace and equality, than the future of Konoha.
Fugaku scowled at the thought. If their plan did not work, the clan would gather and gain the power with pure force. Before that though, they'd try to do it the other way.
Silently, with a critical eye, the council of elders read his request. With each sentence, expressions turned sceptical, but from time to time, he saw a nod and an occasional contemplative frown.
The additional folders contained observations and arguments. Facts that everyone knew about, and some barely anyone had thought of. For example, Uzumaki Naruto was a jinchuuriki without parents and knowledge of his status or heritage. Sooner or later, his emotional state would dictate the amount of demonic chakra he lost control over. Sooner or later, other nations would learn of who he is, and do everything in their power to get rid of him, obtain him or examine him for whatever reasons. Other demon vessels, weapons for their home villages were on the high skill level that one would immediately assume the boy possessed, whether he was the rank of jounin or genin. That and the clear evidence that Uzumaki Naruto had no ties to this village other than his close relationship with Sarutobi, was ensuring that the boy had no loyalty to this place, no love and no plans. His childish dream of becoming a Hokage was just that, a dream that would not come true, but be forgotten as he grew up. To prevent that and use the boy's status in the best of ways, they had to act. The Uchiha clan prepared for what had to be done, and all he needed now, as the clan head, was an approval.
"There is a reason this boy was not adopted when the question arose. It is painfully obvious that any family that claimed the child might have influence over him, ensuring Uzumaki's loyalty." Spoke Homura Mitokado. The pair beside him, Danzo and Koharu, with folders in their hands, nodded in agreement. Fugaku opened his mouth to defend his case but the older man interrupted him and continued, "But I agree with your line of reasoning. That child needs surveillance, discipline and training to meet with the expectations of his position in this village. Position he's not yet aware of."
Shimura Danzo, who had been invited for this meeting, focused on one of the pages and pierced the clan head with a stare. "You gave a hint here, that Sharingan is one of the few tools that could control the power of the Kyuubi. Do you plan to train him in relation to that?"
Fugaku did not have a sufficient answer to that question, and neither did he have it when he was asked for it a second time by Sarutobi. It wasn't as if he had planned to avoid telling the boy the truth. It was quite the opposite really, as it was necessary to start training the jinchuuriki. But while the council was concerned with safety of Konoha, the Hokage - that old man, was concerned with the boy's mental and physical health. He was against revealing the secret to the boy as well as against any serious training, as it meant the end of childhood. But that blond menace had no childhood to begin with, so why not accept the change?
"I know what you're thinking. To tell you the truth, I am not against Naruto-kun having a family, if there's anything the boy needs the most, it's a loving environment." Here the man took a pipe in his hands. "But I also know Naruto-kun well enough to see where it would go. No matter what, he'd love his family and do everything in his power to please the people he loves. And love is a cruel thing, because we can kill for it, betray for it, die and live for it - as long as it reigns in our hearts." He filled the pipe with tobacco, lit it and inhaled the smoke deeply. Minutes ticked by, making all sort of thoughts flow through Fugaku's mind. He cleared his throat before speaking.
"I have an approval of the elder council, and I have the support of the whole clan behind me. We are ready to accept him as part of our family, prepare him for the future.."
"Will you protect him?" The Hokage interrupted with a note of annoyance tinged with slight amusement. "Can you ensure his safety? He is young, vulnerable and impressionable; can you keep his views neutral?"
The clan head frowned and fisted his hands. "His view is his own choice. He's old enough to perceive the world around him. We can protect him, yes, and make him stronger. Give him attention that he needs. I myself shall keep an eye on him, and if I am not enough, then there are other high skilled shinobi in my clan that can, my eldest son himself being one of them. "
Sarutobi exhaled and smiled. "Ah, Itachi, a young genius that keeps surprising those around him with his skills and impressive growth."
Seeing that for a moment the Hokage's gaze had become softer, Fugaku tried to even out his breathing and focus on persuading the man. "The boy dreams of becoming a powerful ninja. The Academy alone will not be sufficient enough to teach him skills other than the basic ones, and he has no guardian to guide him; and that is without the prejudiced academy instructors, that may misguide him and sabotage his education."
A serious and powerful gaze met with his determined one. It spoke of the Hokage being aware of the things he had said, and being displeased with them. But it was also a positive sign for Fugaku as he breached a sensitive subject and reminded the man of failures.
Sarutobi picked the documents again and looked through the pages without reading. "All your propositions do not guarantee Naruto's safety." He voiced calmly, and those words broke Fugaku's hopes of succeeding. "Your request guarantees the safety of Konoha, your influence over the boy and influence over many other things additionally."
He took another inhale of the tobacco. The Hokage loosely placed the papers on the desk. He looked up and his expression spoke of contradictory emotions inside of him. It was as if he was absolutely against any idea Fugaku had, but something had stopped him from completely dismissing the man.
If the Uchiha clan doesn't get Naruto, they might try to gain control over the government, or simply go and overthrow it. That's what his sources had said. Deny them now and regret it later. Or give in and regret it later. Not a perfect bunch of choices.
"What if we made a compromise?" He said aloud, as if he was speaking both to himself and his guest. The old man stood up and moved towards the window. Shortly, a minute later, smoke from the pipe started to surround him again. "You want to have Naruto-kun in your family, have influence over him and that's undeniable." A stern gaze was directed briefly towards the man. "I want to ensure Naruto-kun's safety, and of course, his growth in skills so that he could protect himself from harm and realize his dreams."
In a pause that formed after those words, Fugaku frowned. "You wish to make a condition, a requirement of sorts."
When Jiji asked if he wanted to be adopted by the clan that was the Police Force of the Leaf village he was greatly confused. In all his seven years, there had never been an offer like that before. He assumed it was because the villagers did not like him. They always scowled at him when they saw him, ignored him or simply avoided eye contact and stayed away from him. Rarely would people acknowledge him with a smile, a returned stare or alike, and most of those times they wore a ninja attire.
He recalled the district that belonged to one family, and as Jiji reminded him, it consisted of ninja that wore similar attires and protected the village from the inside. It was surprising that they wanted him in their family, as he didn't really know them, had no memory of any contact with them other than knowing the boy Uchiha Sasuke from his class. And even then, it was just a name as they didn't really speak to each other.
The offer had come out of nowhere, yes, but how could he say no? He had wanted to have a family for so long. Kami-sama had heard his prayer and his dream came true. Naruto ignored the little questions and doubts that emerged in his mind and being his optimistic self, allowed Fugaku-san who was also holding his belongings, to lead him into the territory of the clan, where he would meet those members of the family that would be closest to him. They were Uchiha Fugaku himself, the clan head, and his family, consisting of his wife Mikoto, and his sons, Itachi who was the eldest, and Sasuke, whom Naruto had already met. Then came Uchiha Teyaki and his wife Uruchi, an older couple that owned the senbei shop. They too would help in looking after him on everyday basis.
Naruto hoped that these people would be kind to him.
When he first took a closer look at Fugaku-san, he noticed that his face was stern, and that there were lots of thoughts plaguing his mind. Some of those were positive, and some were not. Nonetheless, he spotted a stone determination and it caused a shiver to travel down his spine.
Clan members they met on their way nodded to the older man and bowed to him, which reminded Naruto of how the villagers and ninja behaved around Hokage-Jiji. It was a form of respect they held. And most importantly to Naruto, they acknowledged even him with a smile, a smaller nod or some form of a greeting. It was exhilarating. If this was how his life could change after adoption, then he would never regret it.
The man's home was a place where he met the main family and an older pair that'd taken place of his parents and grandparents. There was an awkward exchange of greetings, small introductions, and a quick meal in a tense atmosphere. Soon, the awkward small talk ended and Naruto found himself in the house where the old Uchiha couple lived. A room had been prepared for him, and they insisted that he got used to thinking of their house as his home. It wasn't big, but far larger than what Naruto was used to. He noticed that all the district consisted of similar buildings. The main house was the biggest though. The blond fleetingly wondered how the family felt in there, did they get lost and lonely often?
...Later that night, when his head finally hit the pillow, his tired and dizzy mind noted that he was happy to move in with the older married couple. In comparison to the stiff ,weird and formal behaviour of the main family- especially the cold, emotionless face of Itachi-san (he could not ever hope to imagine referring to the older boy without formality and fear born respect)-his main guardians seemed to be sincerely happy about his appearance in their lives. He didn't know if they had children that grew and left them or worse, died in war, but he felt that they wanted to treat him as their child. Happiness in their eyes was obvious. They were a bit older than he imagined, but older people were kinder, right? Before he knew it, he was given pyjamas, goodnight kisses, hair tousling and tight love filled hugs. All of the gestures he almost gave up hope to ever receive. That couple barely knew him, but opened up to him so fast that it was surreal. Was that what love looked like? If it stayed that way, then it was all he could wish for...
When he first met the blond boy that had joined his clan, Itachi had expected him to be as boisterous as he was on the streets, during the brief times he had seen him from a distance. On closer inspection though, he saw that Uzumaki was actually quite shy and seemed to be intimidated by the main Uchiha family.
Good. He didn't really like the idea of the blond coming into their lives, even though there were small chances of things working out for both of the sides. Firstly, the Uchiha clan had adopted the Uzumaki boy to gain the loyalty of the Konoha jinchuuriki - to train him to be the weapon he was meant to be and use him for their own ends. Sandaime though, would stand in the way of those plans. Secondly, even if the boy did benefit from the deal by receiving training, acknowledgement and a family of sorts, he would still be used, betrayed and turned into a machine. And then, finally, a part of the deal was on Itachi's own shoulders, which was maddening, irritating and utterly aggravating. He was definitely not going to make things easier. Why him? Not taking into account his skills and age of course. But there were other candidates, Shisui for example.
He had other plans to take care of. The sudden change in his life had left the chuunin confused and lost. He had to analyze and predict the possible outcomes, and prevent the worst case scenario from coming true. Itachi scowled a bit, trying to control his expression. It was late and he had just returned from a stupid B-ranked delivery mission. As the district slowly came into view, he found himself remembering the events from two weeks ago. He hadn't seen the blond since the first day, and had hoped that missions would keep him occupied enough to not have to see the boy at all. Let Fugaku deal with it himself. Of course adopting the boy had been a better course of action than overthrowing the current Hokage but as he had already calculated, it had small chances of making anyone happy.
Maybe in several months time all the parties involved would realise their mistake and things might go back to the way it used to be.
Or it could get worse.
Nightlights showed him who was still up and those who had already gone to sleep. Itachi walked down the street hoping that his family belonged to the latter, and that he wouldn't have to deal with his father. Just as he gathered the air in his lungs and gave a long suffering sigh, Itachi saw a bright light from the corner of his eyes. It was coming from the roof a bit further away and had a steady, light blue, soft colour.
Alarmed, he jumped on the rooftop on the opposite side of the building to get a closer look.
A strange shape loomed in front of him. The shape was that of a large sphere, however, it appeared harmless. Would he have paid it this much attention if it was during the middle of the day? After inspecting the sight, which took him mere seconds, Itachi came to the conclusion that what he was seeing was chakra, and his Sharingan confirmed it. More so, it came from the same blonde boy he had thought of just moments before. Inwardly, the teen groaned. Was there no escape?
Uzumaki was probably meditating to have better access to and control over his chakra. It was a basic exercise straight out of the Academy, but he'd never seen anyone expel such large amounts of it. The sight in front of him was practically shining.
The blond was calmly sitting cross legged on top of the house that belonged to his guardians. The chakra did not have the slightest measure of the intent to kill, or any intent for that matter, which was the reason Itachi wasn't aware of it until he saw the light for himself. He remembered what his father had told him. Uzumaki had no basic knowledge of chakra, not even that of an academy first year and especially none that one would assume a boy who wanted to become a shinobi one day ought to possess. His teachers would have to start from scratch. But after seeing what he saw now, he had no doubt that the boy would surprise his instructors quite a few times in the future.
Itachi's tense posture relaxed and with mixed feelings, he went home. He hoped that no one would spot him, least of all that blond.
Shuffling, they walked together towards academy.
Instead of words, they exchanged meaningful glances.
So, are we brothers now? Or cousins?
Or relatives of sorts.
You're that other guy in class.
Didn't they need words to say what was on their minds? It seemed whatever one thought, the other already had a response to. It was weird to walk in silence and still feel like they had spent hours just talking.
We go to the academy together now. The same route, the same classes, the same lessons.
Right, and we're in the same age group, remember?
We may be from the same clan now, but we look totally different from each other. Dark hair, light hair. Black eyes, blue eyes. Quiet, loud...
Soon, the adults will start insisting that we train together. Which one of us is stronger, faster?
This will be fun.
...Rumours quickly spread around the village and soon everyone knew that Naruto had been adopted by a respected, well known, and large clan. Each day, as they walked through the village, something changed in the way the people looked at Naruto. Some gave him curious glances, some looked like they were greatly satisfied with something and others continued to glare. But the change was there and it brought a smile upon Naruto's face.
Sasuke glanced his way suspiciously, as if to ask What are you smiling about?
In response the blond grinned, showing his teeth and squinting his eyes, as if to say I'm just happy.
Even though Naruto still wasn't comfortable enough in Sasuke's presence to be himself - to be loud, to speak without stopping and jump in one place, he revelled in the way Sasuke's presence made him feel. The bond that was forming between them promised to rival that of real brothers. Sasuke, on the other hand, could finally relate to someone who wasn't older or smarter, and did spend large amounts of time with him.
The adults saw that too.
When they ate lunch, Naruto took out extra bag of senbei, wrapped and ready for Sasuke, and in turn, Sasuke took out additional bento his mother prepared for his new brother. Or Sasuke brought something sweet to share, while Naruto's guardians prepared a meal for two. It was funny, and it was fulfilling.
Naruto tried harder in class. Once he realized that Sasuke had better grades than him and was always ready with a famous Uchiha smirk every time someone uttered the 'Sasuke is the best' praise, he wanted to show that he was no loser either.
Weeks after gaining a family, putting on shirts with a fan symbol beside the swirl and feeling like his life started anew, Naruto knew that he could not regret agreeing to the adoption. So why was Sandaime-Jiji's face so sad when he asked Naruto if he was sure?
A month later
As Naruto appeared in their lives, he shifted the balance that seemed to have existed for years, and should have for years to come. Places that were taken by members of the family, and positions that were once reserved, were switched all of a sudden without any real explanation. For example, Itachi was always the child that had most of the attention. When he was young, everyone gave him attention to train him, test him, and help him grow. When he graduated, everyone praised him and surrounded him with admiration and adoration. And when Itachi was promoted to chuunin, everyone looked at him, treated him and spoke of him as if he were elite. His place, and his position was on a pedestal. Now though, it looked like its height had sunk.
As Sasuke looked at his brother and his father, he wondered what made them behave differently. Usually each time the man looked at his elder son or addressed him, there was a sense of pride in his voice. Sasuke knew of it well because it was something he craved for. For the man to have that pride and belief in him too. The hours of special training Itachi received from their father had always left Sasuke with a bitter taste in his mouth. He was jealous. But now there was no pride in those eyes, no accomplishment in that voice. Father felt sadness, resignation. Why? He could hide it from people that did not care to look closer, but Sasuke, who had always paid attention to the smallest details of facial expressions, the subtlest tones of the voice and words his father spoke, just knew that there was a change. Enormous change. And Itachi, he had changed too.
Where was the honest smile that made Sasuke feel loved? His older brother may dismiss him, repeat he had no time for him thousands of times, but never with annoyance hidden somewhere behind that mask. And he and their father no longer spent hours in each other's company, or in meetings of the clan. If he didn't know better, Sasuke would've thought that Itachi was being purposely ignored. For what reason?
Why since Naruto appeared in their lives, had everything changed? The older pair, aunt Uruchi and uncle Teyaki stopped being simple members of the clan that lived nearby. He never saw them receiving the nods, the warmer greetings, the respectful bows they were treated with now. And Naruto himself, received smiles from stoic Uchiha. Especially females, as it looked like their gender let them crack their mask a bit more. But was that behaviour honest, or forced? Living in a family of pretenders, one learned to see the difference, even if one did not know nor understand the source. And he wouldn't have thought of it much if it wasn't for the quivering smile on Naruto's own face. Like, his new brother noticed it as well, but kept up with the show. Why?
For Sasuke himself, a change of positions was even greater, because he no longer was the younger brother of the genius, but the promising son of the clan head. Father paid more attention to him in the last month alone than he had the last half a year. But Sasuke had done nothing to gain that much of his father's time. And it wasn't just some additional hour to see where Sasuke stood, no, it was drilling lesson after lesson each day. Sometimes in the company of Itachi, or Shisui, or some other shinobi. And Sasuke wasn't alone in this. Naruto was present every second of it, getting as much, if not more. Like today.
They were throwing kunai using targets. Their postures, angles and aim were corrected to the smallest and stupidest details, from fingers to toes, from the bent knee to eyelashes. Where did that drive to make them perfect come from? Was there war looming over horizon?
Sasuke glanced at his older brother and father from where he stood under the tree. They looked at each other differently, and there was something like disappointment or dare he say it, loathing under Itachi's skin. Since Naruto appeared, Itachi was more emotional, and easier to read, even. Father, as he had started to expect, looked resigned.
Then Sasuke glanced at Naruto.
And promptly stared.
How after hours of training could the blond still go on? They had been throwing kunai and shuriken at the intended target for at least three hours, and Sasuke could not rise off the ground, he was breathless and covered in sweat. He would have smirked at the knowledge of having a slightly better score than Naruto, but it was obvious that if the blond could train twice as long as Sasuke, he'd have no problem in catching up and going further. There was not a bead of sweat on him and not a hint of panting. Where was all that energy stored? In senbei? No way.
Naruto's aim wasn't perfect, but judging from the level he had started from, namely, zero, which Sasuke was an unfortunate witness to, he could assume that his progress was quite visible. A thud of the weapon imbedding itself into the board and light that reflected off the metal surface brought Sasuke back to reality.
No, he couldn't let Naruto be better. They will be equals, not like Sasuke and Itachi. Itachi was too far away, too perfect and too powerful, but Naruto was here, growing just like he was growing, learning at the same pace, at the same time.
A grin that formed on Sasuke's face at the thought faded though, because his father had a grin too, but not when looking at Sasuke, rather, when seeing Naruto still standing, still throwing and ...hitting.
Why did you change our lives? No, that's a wrong question. Why did your appearance in our family change everyone and everything so much?
Four months later
After avoiding the blond child like the plague, trying to stay in shadows so that he didn't get any more attention than he already did, Itachi came to a conclusion that it had come to bite him.
The beautiful warm night in Konoha, with the shiny stars and the silent streets, found them at the pool in the compound. Naruto sat on the edge of the dock with his legs hanging down above the water. Usually that was Sasuke's spot, and Itachi sometimes visited the place too. Like tonight, when he wanted to rest and stare at the calm surface for awhile before he had to go home.
They could share.
But if there was any relationship or understanding between them, it was strained. Since the beginning, because of his foul mood, Itachi was quite cold toward the child and he did not fix that in their brief encounters. If he approached the blond now he did not know how the boy would react.
Especially since it looked like Naruto was crying.
Ah, right, it was a sob, caught by his sensitive hearing that stopped Itachi's advance in the first place. Now he was torn between leaving to avoid confrontation and getting closer to comfort the boy. If he left, he couldn't be sure if Naruto went to his guardians with whatever troubled him, but if he stayed, he couldn't be sure that he might make it worse. The blond's presence here, though, meant that he didn't trust others with his problem and therefore had found this place to hide. In the middle of the night no less. To be truthful to himself, he wasn't particularly keen on approaching Uzumaki without a well thought out plan, but seeing him like this, so young and innocent, reminded him of Sasuke. If it was his younger brother, he'd never hesitate in coming to the rescue. And really, it wasn't Naruto's fault, what had happened in their lives. Out of all the parties he was the least informed one, and the most used. Shouldn't Itachi give him support, instead of the cold shoulder?
He should, but not without a plan. Careful so as not to make any noise, the teen stepped back off the dock, but his hope was crashed as one joist groaned under his foot.
The blond as a result, spun to see the intruder, revealing a tear stained face. And as they stared at each other, all Itachi could think of was the impossibility of him forgetting any joist that made noise. He knew which one to step on, so the only explanation could be that the new one had become old, strained and joined the choir in recent times. Well, he couldn't lose composure, so he strolled to the edge where Naruto was sitting as if it had been his intention since the beginning.
Itachi stopped beside Naruto, one step behind, and watched as the boy rubbed his face and tried to fix his disarranged hair.
They spoke at the same time, though Itachi's greeting was more correct. Morning was several hours away, after all. Apprehensive about the uninvited company, the boy kept avoiding Itachi's studying gaze and fidgeted as if he could feel it travel all over his form.
"What happened, Naruto?" Itachi asked and noticed Naruto gulp.
"Nothing." An embarrassed smile and scratching the back of the head accompanied the word. Obviously he was lying, but what did Itachi expect? A heart wrenching, sincere confession? His looks and general behaviour had prompted people to stay away, fear him, doubt his motives and actions and avoid confrontations at all cost. Rumours about his skills and intelligence had not helped. He did not care to fix the image but at times like this he wondered if people expected him to become a shinobi monster, not just an elite jounin.
"It's not nothing." Itachi calmly insisted. "I will find out sooner or later anyway, but if you tell me now, I may be able to help."
The blond looked up incredulously, like he'd never believe the teen wanted to help him in any way. Then his eyes turned sad. "It's not something anyone can help me with." In resignation Naruto rubbed his face, to stall the tears, maybe.
"Try me." Itachi pushed a bit, with a tiny, soft smile that always worked on Sasuke and their mother.
A sigh and a minute of contemplative silence later, Naruto whispered. "You probably know anyway. ...Everyone knew except for me."
Something clicked in Itachi's mind and he hoped that what he suspected wasn't true. Because it shouldn't be.
"Today I found out, or rather was told about, the Fox." Blue eyes glanced sideways to see if Itachi was shocked by the news or wasn't in the least surprised. But glimpsing the stony, emotionless face of the teen he hastily turned away.
The military council had agreed to let the Uchiha train Naruto in the use of his jinchuuriki abilities. After the improvement the boy had showed in academy and his progress regarding lessons at home, the council had discussed his early graduation and emphasis they want to put into his jinchuuriki development. Barely months had passed, and those old people already wanted to mould him into a weapon, 'with the support of the loving family and healthy environment' of course. Itachi did not expect though, that Naruto would be told of the Kyuubi before graduation. Simply because the boy wasn't ready.
With a soft sigh, the teen took off his sandals and sat down beside Naruto. The water reached his ankles; it felt pleasant, and he moved his feet a bit to add creases to the calm surface of the pond.
"You're upset about the truth." He voiced, instead of admitting that there wasn't anything he could do about Naruto's situation. If he said that he couldn't help, he'd take away any hope left in the boy, which could push him into depression, recklessness, self harm and many other things. The child sitting next to him grimaced, and Itachi translated that what he had said hadn't been exactly right.
Fiddling with the hem of his shirt, the boy spoke, very quietly, unsure of himself. "I'm upset, yeah, there ...there was no reason for it to be me, you know? I think it's not fair. Not fair that the Yondaime chose me, even if I'm partly proud of being the child he chose over others; not fair that instead of ignoring this stupid thing the villagers glared at me as if blaming me for the trouble the Fox wrought." Another glance was shot Itachi's way, to see how the teen had reacted to the words. Did Naruto expect him to protect the villagers? Was he afraid that Itachi would take their side? That like many others, he believed the boy to be the demon he housed?
"It's not fair because if it wasn't for that stupid fox I could be adopted like all other normal children." The blond added timidly. Implying that he wanted to be a part of the family, but hadn't been given a chance before. Now he knew the reason why and it looked like he didn't know how to deal with it. He could deny the knowledge but the fact would not change. He could live with it but could no longer return the stares without understanding. And the worst part was, that it really wasn't his fault, and it wasn't fair.
"We cannot change what has been done. You have to accept things the way they are, without despair. Grow strong from it, and move further." Itachi tried to sound simple and wise. He hoped that Naruto would not believe that the clan had pushed and forced his education out of kindness. And Naruto needed to face the reality, not run from it.
"So I should accept this new training? In control... of the demon's chakra?" The boy looked up hopefully.
The teen frowned in thought. If Naruto refused then Fugaku would try to insist, to convince him that this was good for the clan and for the village as a whole. That Naruto's skill would protect people, and subtle hints would lead the blond to believe that he could become a hero of the village, just like the Yondaime and the Sandaime. It wasn't untrue, surely, but Naruto was an impressionable child and the clan head was a very manipulative man that went after power. And that power was now within reach, all he had to do was nourish it and direct it in the most beneficial way. The boy wouldn't be able to resist the prompting. And with approval of the council, which also included the Hokage now, resisting could only go so far.
"Sooner or later, you'd start it anyway. May as well do it now, than later." Than wait for the crowd to become agitated and impatient.
The boy blinked at the statement, which as the previous, was simple and logical. "...Oh, all right then."
Silence enveloped them as both gazed at the calm surface of the water, disturbed only by the little shifts and movements Itachi's feet made. It was comfortable, now that Naruto had calmed down and became softly immersed in his own thoughts. Itachi relaxed, in no hurry to stop the moment of peace. It felt like the wall of stone between them, that had appeared with tension and coldness since their first encounter, melted and dissolved at last. Itachi knew that it was there and ignored it without realizing how good it felt without it standing in between them.
After what felt like forever, the teen looked sideways at the blond. "Better now?"
The boy gave a small genuine smile. "Yes. Thank you."